|DATE:||August 15, 2022|
|SUBJECT:||Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – Temporary Administrative Waivers Available to State Agencies to Support Unwinding from the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency|
|TO:||All SNAP State Agencies|
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is issuing this guidance to assist Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) state agencies planning for the expiration of the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). FNS recognizes any change in program operations can be challenging to implement and appreciates the work state agencies do to continue to adapt in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. This guidance is for state agency planning purposes and does not signal or confirm when the federal PHE declaration will end. FNS highly encourages state agencies to consider their state payment error rates and other quality control data when considering use of these waivers. State agencies should reach out to their respective regional offices for technical assistance related to identifying relevant data points for this analysis.
Timeline for Ending FFCRA Adjustments
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) authorized FNS to approve state adjustments of issuance methods, application, and reporting requirements if the federal PHE is active and a state issues an emergency or disaster declaration based on a COVID-19 outbreak, among other things. FNS provided guidance on Dec. 8, 2021, detailing the process by which state agencies may continue requesting FFCRA adjustments, in a memo titled “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – Extension of SNAP COVID-19 Administrative Flexibilities January 2022 and Beyond.”
As the Dec. 8, 2021, guidance explains, FNS will approve requests to operate FFCRA adjustments for up to 3-calendar-month intervals beyond the month in which the state agency submits a request and attests to the presence of a state emergency or disaster declaration at the time of the request. States can continue operating FFCRA adjustments through the end of their approval period even if their state emergency or disaster declaration ends during their approval period. If, however, the Secretary of Health and Human Services lifts the federal PHE during a FFCRA adjustment approval period, the state must cease operating the adjustment no later than the end of the month subsequent to the month in which the declaration expires.
State agencies requesting FFCRA adjustments should provide information on how the state plans to transition off use of the adjustment and resume regular operations. Wherever possible, FNS strongly recommends states tailor use of FFCRA adjustments to support their transition to regulatory compliance.
Please note, the above requirements are specific to adjustments approved using FFCRA authority.
Waivers to Support Unwinding from the Public Health Emergency
FNS understands that SNAP state agencies still face many challenges, and some continue to rely heavily on FFCRA adjustments and other administrative flexibilities to manage high caseloads and staffing limitations, among other issues related to COVID-19. However, once the federal PHE declaration or state emergency or disaster declaration expires, FNS can no longer authorize states to operate FFCRA adjustments even if they continue to have difficulty with COVID-19-related issues such as caseloads and staffing levels.
FNS also recognizes that SNAP state agencies, many of which have integrated systems and application processing, anticipate challenges in meeting SNAP federal requirements due to the end of the PHE and requirements associated with Medicaid unwinding and initiating Medicaid redeterminations, which will greatly impact state workload capacity and resources. To further support SNAP state agencies and applicants, FNS is offering administrative waivers for certification processes using our authority to approve waivers under 7 CFR 272.3(c)(1)(i) due to extraordinary temporary situations or when they would result in a more effective and efficient administration of the program.
These waivers include:
- Streamlining recertification procedures. State agencies may use periodic report procedures at 7 CFR 273.12(a)(5)(iii) to establish a new certification period in lieu of routine recertification requirements.
- Waiving the certification interview. State agencies may waive interviews at initial application or recertification, provided that the applicant’s identity has been verified and all other mandatory verifications in 7 CFR 273.2(f)(1) have been completed. The state agency must contact the household if any information on the application is questionable, or verification is incomplete.
- Adjusting follow-up procedures when an address changes and updated shelter costs is not reported. To promote better alignment with Medicaid, if the state agency has verified and cleared information that a household’s address changed but the updated shelter costs are unknown, the state agency may adjust follow-up procedures on address changes at 7 CFR 273.12(c)(4)(i). The state agency will send a notice to the household and adjust the excess shelter deduction if the household responds but wait to adjust the excess shelter deduction until the next certification action if the household does not respond.
- Allowing alternative methods for recording telephonic signatures. Allows for recording telephonic signatures through means other than creating an audio recording of the client’s verbal attestation as required by 7 CFR 273.2(c)(7)(viii). The state agency will document the verbal attestation in the case file and provide the client a written copy of the completed application, with instructions for correcting errors or omissions. Note, FNS will approve this waiver beyond 12 months after the federal PHE is lifted under 7 CFR 272.3(c)(1)(i) because it would result in more effective and efficient administration of the program.
Approval Periods for Waivers
FNS will waive certain SNAP certification procedures to support this transition to post-pandemic program operations for a limited period due to capacity challenges states anticipate they will face in meeting SNAP federal requirements while also initiating all Medicaid redeterminations for their entire Medicaid caseload in the 12 months following the end of the federal PHE. Due to associated impact on state agencies, as well as many households participating in SNAP, FNS is offering these waivers to support operations during these temporary, extraordinary situations. To provide support to states that no longer have a state emergency declaration order, FNS will allow states the option to implement these waivers before the federal PHE ends to provide states the flexibility needed to utilize these waivers in a manner that addresses caseload and other administrative challenges.
FNS may approve these waivers for implementation periods of up to 12 calendar months. Waivers approved under this rationale for extraordinary temporary situations, 7 CFR 272.3(c)(1)(i), may not continue beyond 12 calendar months after the month the federal PHE ends or up to 12 calendar months after implementation, whichever comes first. FNS will consider requests for the waivers outlined above before the federal PHE ends if the state no longer has an active state public health emergency or disaster declaration.
Process for Requesting Waivers
State agencies must submit all requests through the SNAP Waiver Information Management System (WIMS 1). State agencies must submit a separate request for each waiver they would like to implement or extend. Please refer to the WIMS state user manual for detailed instructions on how to request both initial waiver and extensions in WIMS. FNS will also provide specific instructions on how to request these waivers.
FNS will provide waiver request templates for each of the waivers described above with standard alternative procedures and conditions. State agencies should request waivers using these templates. FNS will consider all waiver requests but may require additional time to review requests that differ from the standard alternative procedures and conditions provided in the templates.
The waiver conditions include a requirement that state agencies will submit final evaluation data for each waiver, as outlined in the conditions, within 45 days of the end of the waiver period.
State agencies with questions should contact their respective regional office representatives.
Angela Kline for
Acting Associate Administrator
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
1 Information collection under the SNAP Waiver Information Management System (WIMS) is covered under OMB approval #0584-0083.