Section 809 - Deductions from Income Earned Income Deduction
Q. Is income under a Title IV-A work supplement program counted as unearned income for food stamp purposes or would the earned income deduction only apply to the unsubsidized portion of the income?
A. The earned income deduction would only apply to the unsubsidized portion.
Q. In computing an overissuance due to a household's failure to report earned income timely, does this apply to both intentional and unintentional failures to report?
A. Yes, it applies to both situations.
Q. An earned income deduction is disallowed for any income not reported in a timely manner. Will States be allowed to establish "good cause" with regard to timely reporting?
A. Yes. States will be allowed to establish "good cause".
Homeless Shelter Deduction
Q. Is the homeless shelter allowance still part of the excess shelter deduction?
A. No. It is now a separate (optional) deduction.
Q. What must be verified for the household to get the homeless shelter deduction (each expense or just that they have an expense)?
A. There is no need to verify each expense if one will entitle the household to the homeless shelter estimate. If the State sets a minimum shelter amount, an expense or expenses that exceed that amount should be verified.
Q. Can States set a minimum amount that would entitle a homeless household to the deduction?
A. Yes, the law provides that the State agency may make a household with extremely low shelter costs ineligible for the allowance.
Q. If a State decides to provide a homeless shelter deduction for homeless households, would it be mandatory for homeless households or could they claim actual shelter costs if higher under the excess shelter calculation?
A. We will either address this in the regulations or allow State flexibility in this area. In the interim, States may use their best judgment.
Q. A State wants to use its homeless shelter allowance as the homeless shelter deduction. What will FNS require in terms of approval of the deduction amount?
A. The Act provides that a State agency may develop a standard homeless shelter allowance, which shall not exceed $143 per month. Therefore, States may set the amount provided that it does not exceed $143 per month.
Standard Utility Allowance (SUA)
Q. For households that have 24-month certification periods, as allowed by section 801, can States allow households to switch between actual costs and the SUA at the mid-certification contact?
A. Under section 5(e)(7)(C)(iii)(II) of the Food Stamp Act, as amended by the PRWORA, a State agency that does not take the option to use a mandatory SUA shall allow a household to switch between the SUA and actual costs at the end of a certification period. Therefore, households with 24-month certification periods can switch only at the end of the 24-month period.
Q. Section 5(e)(7)(C)(iii)(II) of the Food Stamp Act as amended by the PRWORA provides that a State agency that does not opt for a mandatory SUA shall allow a household to switch at the end of a certification period between the SUA and actual costs. Does this preclude the State agency from allowing the household to switch from an SUA to actual costs or vice versa when a household moves to another residence during the certification period?
A. Current policy is that households that were incurring no utility costs that move and begin incurring allowable utility costs may choose between the SUA and actual costs at the time of the move. The amendments to the Food Stamp Act by the PRWORA do not change this policy.
Q. Can a waiver be granted to offer a switch at mid-certification or at any other time during a certification period?
A. FNS has no authority to approve a waiver of section 5(e)(7)(C)(iii)(II) under the waiver authority in 7 CFR 272.3(c).
Q. In States that choose to make the SUA mandatory for all households, do the rules for the telephone standard remain the same?
Yes. The provision in 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(v)(C) allowing State agencies to mandate use of a telephone standard would remain the same.
Q. Section 809 provides that State agencies may mandate use of a standard utility allowance (SUA) if the State agency has developed both a heating and cooling standard and a standard that does not include heating and cooling and the standards will not result in increased Program costs. Is the status of current nonheating/cooling waivers affected by this provision?
A. Current waivers allowing limited (nonheating/cooling) SUAs will remain in place until final regulations are published.
Q. Will FNS consider additional requests for limited waivers for States that do not choose the option to make SUAs mandatory?
A. Yes. State agencies may continue to submit requests for limited SUAs.
Q. If a State opts to use mandatory standards, do they have to be approved by FNS?
A. Yes. The FNS national office will review State requests to use mandatory standards.
Q. Will States be required to submit cost impact evaluations for mandated SUAs?
A. FNS will work with State agencies interested in the option to develop standards that do not increase costs.
Q. If a State agency opts for a mandatory SUA, will the State be allowed or required to adjust it from year to year?
A. State agencies would have to submit justification for any increase or decrease in a standard.
Q. Is there any indication that the SUA amount could be capped?
A. The law does not cap the SUA amount.
Q. Is there a shelter deduction cap when budgeting excess shelter costs for the elderly and disabled?