This final rule is effective Sept. 23, 2020.
It finalizes the provisions of a proposed rule published on Sept. 29, 2016 (81 FR 66866). With this final rule, the Department is amending 7 CFR part 274 to implement the benefit issuance, storage and expungement provisions of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, PL 110-234 (2008 Farm Bill).
Since publication of the proposed rule, the President signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), which made additional mandatory changes to the provisions governing the storage and expungement of unused benefits. Accordingly, the Department intends to adopt these 2018 Farm Bill provisions as final as well.
Finally, this final rule will update terminology at 7 CFR part 271 to reflect the program's new name and the issuance of benefits through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) systems, as well as add new EBT-related definitions to 7 CFR 271.2.
Summary of Changes From Proposed Rule
The final rule incorporates the following modifications for clarity:
- The definitions of EBT Card, EBT System, Interoperability and Point-of-Sale Device will no longer refer to point-of-sale and card technology in order to take into account on-line and other emerging technologies.
- Amendatory language is being added to clarify that taking benefits off-line means making a household's entire SNAP EBT account inaccessible to the household, including any new benefits added to the account.
- Amendatory language is being added to clarify that any unexpired benefits taken off-line must be restored upon a household's recertification or reapplication for benefits or a general request for assistance.
- Amendatory language is being added to clarify that benefits must be expunged on a first-in-first-out (FIFO) basis.
The Department is also making the following changes to the proposed provisions:
- The proposed change to the definition of “Drug addiction or alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation program,” is being withdrawn to provide the public another opportunity to comment as part of a future comprehensive rulemaking regarding group living arrangements.
- The proposed corrections to the definitions of “Employment and Training (E&T) component,” and “Employment and Training (E&T) mandatory participant.” is being withdrawn because they will be included in a separate rulemaking on E&T provisions.
- State agencies will now have the option to maintain the current method of expunging unused benefits only from inactive accounts or to expunge benefits based on the date of issuance, regardless of account activity. The option the state chooses must be applied to all households.
- State agencies must expunge unused benefits after nine months (rather than 12 months) in accordance with one of the expungement processes above.
- States agencies must provide notice to individual households prior to expunging benefits no later than 30 days prior to the date the benefits will be expunged.
- State agencies may choose to take benefits off-line prior to expungement after three months of account inactivity (rather than six months).
- State agencies will not be required to remove off-line benefits from the Account Management Agent (AMA) as proposed. Instead, state agencies will be required to make the entire EBT account inaccessible to the household if they take benefits off-line.