7 CFR 246.7 - Certification of participants.
(a) Integration with health services. To lend administrative efficiency and participant convenience to the certification process, whenever possible, Program intake procedures shall be combined with intake procedures for other health programs or services administered by the State and local agencies. Such merging may include verification procedures, certification interviews, and income computations. Local agencies shall maintain and make available for distribution to all pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women and to parents or caretakers of infants and children applying for and participating in the Program a list of local resources for drug and other harmful substance abuse counseling and treatment.
(b) Program referral and access. State and local agencies shall provide WIC Program applicants and participants or their designated proxies with information on other health-related and public assistance programs, and when appropriate, shall refer applicants and participants to such programs.
(1) The State agency shall provide each local WIC agency with materials showing the maximum income limits, according to family size, applicable to pregnant women, infants, and children up to age 5 under the medical assistance program established under Title XIX of the Social Security Act (in this section, referred to as the “Medicaid Program”). The local agency shall, in turn, provide to adult individuals applying or reapplying for the WIC Program for themselves or on behalf of others, written information about the Medicaid Program. If such individuals are not currently participating in Medicaid but appear to have family income below the applicable maximum income limits for the program, the local agency shall also refer these individuals to Medicaid, including the referral of infants and children to the appropriate entity in the area authorized to determine eligibility for early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment (EPSDT) services, and, the referral of pregnant women to the appropriate entity in the area authorized to determine presumptive eligibility for the Medicaid Program, if such determinations are being offered by the State.
(2) State agencies shall provide WIC services at community and migrant health centers, Indian Health Services facilities, and other federally health care supported facilities established in medically underserved areas to the extent feasible.
(3) Local agencies may provide information about other potential sources of food assistance in the local area to adult individuals applying or reapplying in person for the WIC Program for themselves or on behalf of others, when such applicants cannot be served because the Program is operating at capacity in the local area.
(4) Each local agency that does not routinely schedule appointments shall schedule appointments for employed adult individuals seeking to apply or reapply for participation in the WIC Program for themselves or on behalf of others so as to minimize the time such individuals are absent from the workplace due to such application.
(5) Each local agency shall attempt to contact each pregnant woman who misses her first appointment to apply for participation in the Program in order to reschedule the appointment. At the time of initial contact, the local agency shall request an address and telephone number where the pregnant woman can be reached.
(c) Eligibility criteria and basic certification procedures.
(i) Reside within the jurisdiction of the State (except for Indian State agencies). Indian State agencies may establish a similar requirement. All State agencies may determine a service area for any local agency, and may require that an applicant reside within the service area. However, the State agency may not use length of residency as an eligibility requirement.
(ii) Meet the income criteria specified in paragraph (d) of this section.
(i) At certification, the State or local agency must require each applicant to present proof of residency (i.e., location or address where the applicant routinely lives or spends the night) and proof of identity. The State or local agency must also check the identity of participants, or in the case of infants or children, the identity of the parent or guardian, or proxies when issuing food, cash-value vouchers or food instruments. The State agency may authorize the certification of applicants when no proof of residency or identity exists (such as when an applicant or an applicant's parent is a victim of theft, loss, or disaster; a homeless individual; or a migrant farmworker). In these cases, the State or local agency must require the applicant to confirm in writing his/her residency or identity. Further, an individual residing in a remote Indian or Native village or an individual served by an Indian tribal organization and residing on a reservation or pueblo may establish proof of residency by providing the State agency their mailing address and the name of the remote Indian or Native village.
(ii) For a State agency opting to require proof of pregnancy, the State agency may issue benefits to applicants who claim to be pregnant (assuming that all other eligibility criteria are met) but whose conditions (as pregnant) are not visibly noticeable and do not have documented proof of pregnancy at the time of the certification interview and determination. The State agency should then allow a reasonable period of time, not to exceed 60 days, for the applicant to provide the requested documentation. If such documentation is not provided as requested, the woman can no longer be considered categorically eligible, and the local agency would then be justified in terminating the woman's WIC participation in the middle of a certification period.
(3) A State, a State agency, and an Indian Tribal Organization (including, an Indian tribe, band, or group recognized by the Department of the Interior; or an intertribal council or group which is an authorized representative of Indian tribes, bands or groups recognized by the Department of the Interior and which has an ongoing relationship with such tribes, bands or groups for other purposes and has contracted with them to administer the Program) serving as a State agency, may limit WIC participation to United States citizens, nationals, and qualified aliens as these terms are defined in the Immigration and Nationality Laws (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.). State agencies that implement this option shall inform FNS of their intentions and provide copies of the procedures they will establish regarding the limitation of WIC services to United States citizens, nationals, and qualified aliens.
(d) Income criteria and income eligibility determinations. The State agency shall establish, and provide local agencies with, income guidelines, definitions, and procedures to be used in determining an applicant's income eligibility for the Program.
(1) Income eligibility guidelines. The State agency may prescribe income guidelines either equaling the income guidelines established under section 9 of the National School Lunch Act for reduced-price school meals or identical to State or local guidelines for free or reduced-price health care. However, in conforming Program income guidelines to health care guidelines, the State agency shall not establish Program guidelines which exceed the guidelines for reduced-price school meals or are less than 100 percent of the revised poverty income guidelines issued annually by the Department of Health and Human Services. Program applicants who meet the requirements established by paragraph (d)(2)(vi)(A) of this section shall not be subject to the income limits established by State agencies under this paragraph.
(i) Local agency income eligibility guidelines. Different guidelines may be prescribed for different local agencies within the State provided that the guidelines are the ones used by the local agencies for determining eligibility for free or reduced-price health care.
(ii) Annual adjustments in the income guidelines. On or before June 1 each year, FNS will announce adjustments in the income guidelines for reduced-price meals under section 9 of the National School Lunch Act, based on annual adjustments in the revised poverty income guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.
(iii) Implementation of the income guidelines. On or before July 1 each year, each State agency shall announce and transmit to each local agency the State agency's family size income guidelines, unless changes in the poverty income guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services do not necessitate changes in the State or local agency's income guidelines. The State agency may implement revised guidelines concurrently with the implementation of income guidelines under the Medicaid program established under Title XIX of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1396 of et seq.). The State agency shall ensure that conforming adjustments are made, if necessary, in local agency income guidelines. The local agency shall implement (revised) guidelines not later than July 1 of each year for which such guidelines are issued by the State.
(2) Income eligibility determinations. The State agency shall ensure that local agencies determine income through the use of a clear and simple application form provided or approved by the State agency.
(i) Timeframes for determining income. In determining the income eligibility of an applicant, the State agency may instruct local agencies to consider the income of the family during the past 12 months and the family's current rate of income to determine which indicator more accurately reflects the family's status. However, persons from families with adult members who are unemployed shall be eligible based on income during the period of unemployment if the loss of income causes the current rate of income to be less than the State or local agency's income guidelines for Program eligibility.
(ii) Definition of “Income”. If the State agency uses the National School Lunch reduced-priced meal income guidelines, as specified in paragraph (d)(1) of this section, it shall use the following definition of income: Income for the purposes of this part means gross cash income before deductions for income taxes, employees' social security taxes, insurance premiums, bonds, etc. Income includes the following -
(A) Monetary compensation for services, including wages, salary, commissions, or fees;
(B) Net income from farm and non-farm self-employment;
(C) Social Security benefits;
(D) Dividends or interest on savings or bonds, income from estates or trusts, or net rental income;
(E) Public assistance or welfare payments;
(F) Unemployment compensation;
(G) Government civilian employee or military retirement or pensions or veterans' payments;
(H) Private pensions or annuities;
(I) Alimony or child support payments;
(J) Regular contributions from persons not living in the household;
(K) Net royalties; and
(L) Other cash income. Other cash income includes, but is not limited to, cash amounts received or withdrawn from any source including savings, investments, trust accounts and other resources which are readily available to the family.
(iii) Use of a State or local health care definition of “Income”. If the State agency uses State or local free or reduced-price health care income guidelines, it will ensure that the definitions of income (see paragraph (d)(2)(ii) of this section), family (see § 246.2) and allowable exclusions from income (see paragraph (d)(2)(iv) of this section) are used uniformly to determine an applicant's income eligibility. This ensures that households with a gross income in excess of 185 percent of the Federal income guidelines (see paragraph (d)(1) of this section) are not eligible for Program benefits. The exception to this requirement is persons who are also income eligible under other programs (see paragraph (d)(2)(vi) of this section).
(iv) Income exclusions.
(A) In determining income eligibility, the State agency may exclude from consideration as income any:
(1) Basic allowance for housing received by military services personnel residing off military installations or in privatized housing, whether on- or off-base; and
(C) Loans, not including amounts to which the applicant has constant or unlimited access.
(D) Payments or benefits provided under certain Federal programs or acts are excluded from consideration as income by legislative prohibition. The payments or benefits which must be excluded from consideration as income include, but are not limited to:
(2) Any payment to volunteers under Title I (VISTA and others) and Title II (RSVP, foster grandparents, and others) of the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (Pub. L. 93-113, sec. 404(g), 42 U.S.C. 5044(g)) to the extent excluded by that Act;
(6) Income derived from the disposition of funds to the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians (Pub. L. 94-540, sec. 6);
(8) The value of assistance to children or their families under the National School Lunch Act, as amended (Pub. L. 94-105, sec. 9(d), 42 U.S.C. sec. 1760(e)), the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (Pub. L. 89-642, sec. 11(b), 42 U.S.C. sec. 1780(b)), and the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (Pub. L. 95-113, sec. 1301, 7 U.S.C. sec. 2017(b));
(9) Payments by the Indian Claims Commission to the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Indian Nation or the Apache Tribe of the Mescalero Reservation (Pub. L. 95-433, sec. 2, 25 U.S.C. 609c-1);
(10) Payments to the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation or any of their members received pursuant to the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980 (Pub. L. 96-420, sec. 6, 9(c), 25 U.S.C. 1725(i), 1728(c));
(12) Student financial assistance received from any program funded in whole or part under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, including the Pell Grant, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, State Student Incentive Grants, National Direct Student Loan, PLUS, College Work Study, and Byrd Honor Scholarship programs, which is used for costs described in section 472 (1) and (2) of that Act (Pub. L. 99-498, section 479B, 20 U.S.C. 1087uu). The specified costs set forth in section 472 (1) and (2) of the Higher Education Act are tuition and fees normally assessed a student carrying the same academic workload as determined by the institution, and including the costs for rental or purchase of any equipment, materials, or supplies required of all students in the same course of study; and an allowance for books, supplies, transportation, and miscellaneous personal expenses for a student attending the institution on at least a half-time basis, as determined by the institution. The specified costs set forth in section 472 (1) and (2) of the Act are those costs which are related to the costs of attendance at the educational institution and do not include room and board and dependent care expenses;
(14) Effective July 1, 1991, payments received under the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act, as amended by the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act Amendments of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-392, sec. 501, 20 U.S.C. sec. 2466d);
(15) Payments pursuant to the Agent Orange Compensation Exclusion Act (Pub. L. 101-201, sec. 1);
(16) Payments received for Wartime Relocation of Civilians under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (Pub. L. 100-383, sec. 105(f)(2), 50 App. U.S.C. sec. 1989b-4(f)(2));
(18) Value of any “at-risk” block grant child care payments made under section 5081 of Pub. L. 101-508, which amended section 402(i) of the Social Security Act;
(20) Mandatory salary reduction amount for military service personnel which is used to fund the Veteran's Educational Assistance Act of 1984 (GI Bill), as amended (Pub. L. 99-576, sec. 303(a)(1), 38 U.S.C. sec. 1411 (b));
(22) Payments received under the Cranston-Gonzales National Affordable Housing Act, unless the income of the family equals or exceeds 80 percent of the median income of the area (Pub. L. 101-625, sec. 522(i)(4), 42 U.S.C. sec. 1437f nt);
(23) Payments received under the Housing and Community Development Act of 1987, unless the income of the family increases at any time to not less than 50 percent of the median income of the area (Pub. L. 100-242, sec. 126(c)(5)(A), 25 U.S.C. sec. 2307);
(24) Payments received under the Sac and Fox Indian claims agreement (Pub. L. 94-189, sec. 6);
(26) Payments for the relocation assistance of members of Navajo and Hopi Tribes (Pub. L. 93-531, sec. 22, 22 U.S.C. sec. 640d-21);
(27) Payments to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewas, Arizona (Pub. L. 97-403, sec. 9);
(28) Payments to the Blackfeet, Grosventre, and Assiniboine tribes (Montana) and the Papago (Arizona) (Pub. L. 97-408, sec. 8(d));
(30) Payments to the Red Lake Band of Chippewas (Pub. L. 98-123, sec. 3);
(32) Payments to the Chippewas of Mississippi (Pub. L. 99-377, sec. 4(b));
(35) Combat pay received by the household member under Chapter 5 of Title 37 or as otherwise designated by the Secretary.
(v) Are applicants required to document income eligibility? (A) Adjuctively/automatically income eligible applicants. The State or local agency must require applicants determined to be adjunctively or automatically income eligible to document their eligibility for the program that makes them income eligible as set forth in paragraph (d)(2)(vi) of this section.
(C) Exceptions. The income documentation requirement does not apply to an individual for whom the necessary documentation is not available or an individual such as a homeless woman or child for whom the agency determines the income documentation requirement would present an unreasonable barrier to participation. Examples of individuals for whom the necessary documentation is not available include those with no income or no proof of income (such as an applicant or applicant's parent who is a migrant farmworker or other individual who works for cash). These are the only exceptions that may be used. When using these exceptions, the State or local agency must require the applicant to sign a statement specifying why he/she cannot provide documentation of income. Such a statement is not required when there is no income.
(vi) Adjunct or automatic income eligibility.
(1) Certified as fully eligible to receive SNAP benefits under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, or certified as fully eligible, or presumptively eligible pending completion of the eligibility determination process, to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) under Part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act or Medical Assistance (i.e., Medicaid) under Title XIX of the Social Security Act; or
(2) A member of a family that is certified eligible to receive assistance under TANF, or a member of a family in which a pregnant woman or an infant is certified eligible to receive assistance under Medicaid.
(B) The State agency may accept, as evidence of income within Program guidelines, documentation of the applicant's participation in State-administered programs not specified in this paragraph that routinely require documentation of income, provided that those programs have income eligibility guidelines at or below the State agency's Program income guidelines.
(C) Persons who are adjunctively income eligible, as set forth in paragraphs (d)(2)(vi)(A) of this section, shall not be subject to the income limits established under paragraph (d)(1) of this section.
(vii) Income eligibility of pregnant women. A pregnant woman who is ineligible for participation in the program because she does not meet income guidelines shall be considered to have satisfied the income guidelines if the guidelines would be met by increasing the number of individuals in her family by the number of embryos or fetuses in utero. The same increased family size may also be used for any of the pregnant woman's categorically eligible family members. The State agency shall allow applicants to waive this increase in family size.
(viii) Income eligibility of Indian applicants. If an Indian State agency (or a non-Indian State agency which acts on behalf of a local agency operated by an Indian organization or the Indian Health Service) submits census data or other reliable documentation demonstrating to FNS that the majority of the Indian households in a local agency's service area have incomes at or below the State agency's income eligibility guidelines, FNS may authorize the State agency to approve the use of an income certification system under which the local Indian agency shall inform each Indian applicant household of the maximum family income allowed for that applicant's family size. The local agency shall ensure that the applicant, or the applicant's parent or caretaker, signs a statement that the applicant's family income does not exceed the maximum. The local agency may verify the income eligibility of any Indian applicant.
(ix) Are instream migrant farmworkers and their family members required to document income eligibility? Certain instream migrant farmworkers and their family members with expired Verification of Certification cards shall be declared to satisfy the State agency's income standard and income documentation requirements. Such cases include when income of that instream migrant farmworker is determined at least once every 12 months. Such families shall satisfy the income criteria in any State for any subsequent certification while the migrant is instream during the 12-month period following the determination. The determination can occur either in the migrant's home base area before the migrant has entered the stream for a particular agricultural season, or in an instream area during the agricultural season.
(e) Nutritional risk. To be certified as eligible for the Program, applicants who meet the Program's eligibility standards specified in paragraph (c) of this section must be determined to be at nutritional risk. A competent professional authority on the staff of the local agency shall determine if a person is at nutritional risk through a medical and/or nutritional assessment. This determination may be based on referral data submitted by a competent professional authority not on the staff of the local agency. Nutritional risk data shall be documented in the participant's file and shall be used to assess an applicant's nutritional status and risk; tailor the food package to address nutritional needs; design appropriate nutrition education, including breastfeeding promotion and support; and make referrals to health and social services for follow-up, as necessary and appropriate.
Except as stated in paragraph (e)(1)(v) of this section, at least one determination of nutritional risk must be documented at the time of certification in order for an income eligible applicant to receive WIC benefits.
(1) Determination of nutritional risk.
(i) Required nutritional risk data.
(A) At a minimum, height or length and weight measurements shall be performed and/or documented in the applicant's file at the time of certification. In addition, a hematological test for anemia such as a hemoglobin, hematocrit, or free erythrocyte protoporphyrin test shall be performed and/or documented at certification for applicants with no other nutritional risk factor present. For applicants with a qualifying nutritional risk factor present at certification, such test shall be performed and/or documented within 90 days of the date of certification. However, for breastfeeding women 6-12 months postpartum, such hematological tests are not required if a test was performed after the termination of their pregnancy. In addition, such hematological tests are not required, but are permitted, for infants under nine months of age. All infants nine months of age and older (who have not already had a hematological test performed or obtained, between the ages of six and nine months), shall have a hematological test performed between nine and twelve months of age or obtained from referral sources. This hematological test does not have to occur within 90 days of the date of certification. Only one test is required for children between 12 and 24 months of age, and this test should be done 6 months after the infant test, if possible. At the State or local agency's discretion, the hematological test is not required for children ages two and older who were determined to be within the normal range at their last certification. However, the hematological test shall be performed on such children at least once every 12 months. Hematological test data submitted by a competent professional authority not on the staff of the local agency may be used to establish nutritional risk. However, such referral hematological data must:
(1) Be reflective of a woman applicant's category, meaning the test must have been taken for pregnant women during pregnancy and for postpartum or breastfeeding women following termination of pregnancy;
(3) Conform to recordkeeping requirements as outlined in paragraph (i)(4) of this section.
(B) Height or length and weight measurements and, with the exceptions specified in paragraph (e)(1)(v) of this section, hematological tests, shall be obtained for all participants, including those who are determined at nutritional risk based solely on the established nutritional risk status of another person, as provided in paragraphs (e)(1)(iv) and (e)(1)(v) of this section.
(ii) Timing of nutritional risk data.
(B) Hematological test for anemia.
(1) For pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, and child applicants, the hematological test for anemia shall be performed or obtained from referral sources at the time of certification or within 90 days of the date of certification. The hematological test for anemia may be deferred for up to 90 days from the time of certification for applicants who have at least one qualifying nutritional risk factor present at the time of certification. If no qualifying risk factor is identified, a hematological test for anemia must be performed or obtained from referral sources (with the exception of presumptively eligible pregnant women).
(2) Infants nine months of age and older (who have not already had a hematological test performed, between six and nine months of age, by a competent professional authority or obtained from referral sources), shall between nine and twelve months of age have a hematological test performed or obtained from referral sources. Such a test may be performed more than 90 days after the date of certification.
(3) For pregnant women, the hematological test for anemia shall be performed during their pregnancy. For persons certified as postpartum or breastfeeding women, the hematological test for anemia shall be performed after the termination of their pregnancy. For breastfeeding women who are 6-12 months postpartum, no additional blood test is necessary if a test was performed after the termination of their pregnancy. The participant or parent/guardian shall be informed of the test results when there is a finding of anemia, and notations reflecting the outcome of the tests shall be made in the participant's file. Nutrition education, food package tailoring, and referral services shall be provided to the participant or parent/guardian, as necessary and appropriate.
(iii) Breastfeeding dyads. A breastfeeding woman may be determined to be a nutritional risk if her breastfed infant has been determined to be a nutritional risk. A breastfed infant can be certified based on the mother's medical and/or nutritional assessment. A breastfeeding mother and her infant shall be placed in the highest priority level for which either is qualified.
(iv) Infants born to WIC mothers or women who were eligible to participate in WIC. An infant under six months of age may be determined to be at nutritional risk if the infant's mother was a Program participant during pregnancy or of medical records document that the woman was at nutritional risk during pregnancy because of detrimental or abnormal nutritional conditions detectable by biochemical or anthropometric measurements or other documented nutritionally related medical conditions.
(v) Presumptive eligibility for pregnant women. A pregnant woman who meets the income eligibility standards may be considered presumptively eligible to participate in the program, and may be certified immediately without an evaluation of nutritional risk for a period up to 60 days. A nutritional risk evaluation of such woman shall be completed not later than 60 days after the woman is certified for participation. A hematological test for anemia is not required to be performed within the 60-day period, but rather within 90 days, unless the nutritional risk evaluation performed does not identify a qualifying risk factor. If no qualifying risk factor is identified, a hematological test for anemia must be performed or obtained from referral sources before the 60-day period elapses. Under the subsequent determination process, if the woman does not meet any qualifying nutritional risk criteria, including anemia criteria, the woman shall be determined ineligible and may not participate in the program for the reference pregnancy after the date of the determination. Said applicant may subsequently reapply for program benefits and if found to be both income eligible and at qualifying nutritional risk may participate in the program. Persons found ineligible to participate in the program under this paragraph shall be advised in writing of the ineligibility, of the reasons for the ineligibility, and of the right to a fair hearing. The reasons for the ineligibility shall be properly documented and shall be retained on file at the local agency. In addition, if the nutritional risk evaluation is not completed within the 60-day timeframe, the woman shall be determined ineligible.
(vi) Regression. A WIC participant who is reapplying for WIC benefits may be considered to be at nutritional risk in the next certification period if the competent professional authority determines that the applicant's nutritional status may regress to the nutritional risk condition(s) certified for in the previous certification period without supplemental foods and/or WIC nutrition services, and if the nutritional risk condition(s) certified for in the previous certification period is/are appropriate to the category of the participant in the subsequent certification based on regression. However, such applicants shall not be considered at nutritional risk based on the possibility of regression for consecutive certification periods. Applicants who are certified based on the possibility of regression should be placed either in the same priority for which they were certified in the previous certification period; a priority level lower than the priority level assigned in the previous certification period, consistent with § 246.7(e)(4); or in Priority VII, if the State agency is using that priority level.
(i) Detrimental or abnormal nutritional conditions detectable by biochemical or anthropometric measurements, such as anemia, underweight, overweight, abnormal patterns of weight gain in a pregnant woman, low birth weight in an infant, or stunting in an infant or child;
(ii) Other documented nutritionally related medical conditions, such as clinical signs of nutritional deficiencies, metabolic disorders, pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, failure to thrive in an infant, chronic infections in any person, alcohol or drug abuse or mental retardation in women, lead poisoning, history of high risk pregnancies or factors associated with high risk pregnancies (such as smoking; conception before 16 months postpartum; history of low birth weight, premature births, or neonatal loss; adolescent pregnancy; or current multiple pregnancy) in pregnant women, or congenital malformations in infants or children, or infants born of women with alcohol or drug abuse histories or mental retardation.
(iii) Dietary deficiencies that impair or endanger health, such as inadequate dietary patterns assessed by a 24-hour dietary recall, dietary history, or food frequency checklist; and
(iv) Conditions that predispose persons to inadequate nutritional patterns or nutritionally related medical conditions, such as homelessness or migrancy.
(3) Nutritional risk priorities. In determining nutritional risk, the State agency shall develop and include in its State Plan, specific risk conditions by priority level with indices for identifying these conditions. The criteria shall be used statewide and in accordance with the priority system as set forth in paragraph (e)(4) of this section.
(4) Nutritional risk priority system. The competent professional authority shall fill vacancies which occur after a local agency has reached its maximum participation level by applying the following participant priority system to persons on the local agency's waiting list. Priorities I through VI shall be utilized in all States. The State agency may, at its discretion, expand the priority system to include Priority VII. The State agency may set income or other sub-priority levels within any of these seven priority levels. The State agency may expand Priority III, IV, or V to include high-risk postpartum women. The State agency may place pregnant or breastfeeding women and infants who are at nutritional risk solely because of homelessness or migrancy in Priority IV; children who are at nutritional risk solely because of homelessness or migrancy in Priority V; and postpartum women who are at nutritional risk solely because of homelessness or migrancy in Priority VI, OR, the State agency may place pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum women, infants, and children who are at nutritional risk solely because of homelessness or migrancy in Priority VII.
(i) Priority I. Pregnant women, breastfeeding women and infants at nutritional risk as demonstrated by hematological or anthropometric measurements, or other documented nutritionally related medical conditions which demonstrate the need for supplemental foods.
(ii) Priority II. Except those infants who qualify for Priority I, infant up to six months of age of Program participants who participated during pregnancy, and infants up to six months of age born of women who were not Program participants during pregnancy but whose medical records document that they were at nutritional risk during pregnancy due to nutritional conditions detectable by biochemical or anthropometric measurements or other documented nutritionally related medical conditions which demonstrated the person's need for supplemental foods.
(iii) Priority III. Children at nutritional risk as demonstrated by hematological or anthropometric measurements or other documented medical conditions which demonstrate the child's need for supplemental foods.
(vii) Priority VII. Individuals certified for WIC solely due to homelessness or migrancy and, at State agency option, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (e)(1)(vi) of this section, previously certified participants who might regress in nutritional status without continued provision of supplemental foods.
(f) Processing standards. The local agencies shall process applicants within the following timeframes:
(1) Waiting lists. When the local agency is serving its maximum caseload, the local agency shall maintain a waiting list of individuals who visit the local agency to express interest in receiving Program benefits and who are likely to be served. However, in no case shall an applicant who requests placement on the waiting list be denied inclusion. State agencies may establish a policy which permits or requires local agencies to accept telephone requests for placement on the waiting list. The waiting list shall include the person's name, address or phone number, status (e.g., pregnant, breastfeeding, age of applicant), and the date he or she was placed on the waiting list. Individuals shall be notified of their placement on a waiting list within 20 days after they visit the local agency during clinic office hours to request Program benefits. For those State agencies establishing procedures to accept telephone requests for placement on a waiting list, individuals shall be notified of their placement on a waiting list within 20 days after contacting the local agency by phone. The competent professional authority shall apply the participant priority system as specified in paragraph (e)(4) of this section to the waiting list to ensure that the highest priority persons become Program participants first when caseload slots become available.
(2) Timeframes for processing applicants.
(i) When the local agency is not serving its maximum caseload, the local agency shall accept applications, make eligibility determinations, notify the applicants of the decisions made and, if the applicants are to be enrolled, issue food, cash-value vouchers or food instruments. All of these actions shall be accomplished within the timeframes set forth below.
(ii) The processing timeframes shall begin when the individual visits the local agency during clinic office hours to make an oral or written request for Program benefits. To ensure that accurate records are kept of the date of such requests, the local agency shall, at the time of each request, record the applicant's name, address and the date. The remainder of the information necessary to determine eligibility shall be obtained by the time of certification. Medical data taken prior to certification may be used as provided in paragraph (g)(4) of this section.
(A) Special nutritional risk applicants shall be notified of their eligibility or ineligibility within 10 days of the date of the first request for Program benefits; except that State agencies may provide an extension of the notification period to a maximum of 15 days for those local agencies which make written request, including a justification of the need for an extension. The State agency shall establish criteria for identifying categories of persons at special nutritional risk who require expedited services. At a minimum, however, these categories shall include pregnant women eligible as Priority I participants, and migrant farmworkers and their family members who soon plan to leave the jurisdiction of the local agency.
(iv) Each local agency using a retail purchase system shall issue a food instrument(s) and if applicable cash-value voucher(s) to the participant at the same time as notification of certification. Such food instrument(s) and cash-value vouchers shall provide benefits for the current month or the remaining portion thereof and shall be redeemable immediately upon receipt by the participant. Local agencies may mail the initial food instrument(s) and if applicable cash-value vouchers with the notification of certification to those participants who meet the criteria for the receipt of food instruments through the mail, as provided in § 246.12(r)(4).
(g) Certification periods.
|A/an:||Will be certified:|
|(i) Pregnant woman||For the duration of her pregnancy, and up to the last day of the month in which the infant becomes six weeks old or the pregnancy ends (for example, if the infant is born June 4, six weeks after birth would be July 16, and certification would end July 31).|
|(ii) Postpartum woman||Up to the last day of the sixth month after the baby is born or the pregnancy ends (postpartum).|
|(iii) Breastfeeding woman||Approximately every six months. The State agency may permit its local agencies to certify a breastfeeding woman up to the last day of the month in which her infant turns 1 year old, or until the woman ceases breastfeeding, whichever occurs first.|
|(iv) Infant||Approximately every six months. The State agency may permit its local agencies to certify an infant under six months of age up to the last day of the month in which the infant turns 1 year old, provided the quality and accessibility of health care services are not diminished.|
|(v) Child||Approximately every six months ending with the last day of the month in which a child reaches his/her fifth birthday. The State agency may permit its local agencies to certify a child for a period of up to one year, provided the local agency ensures that the child receives the required health and nutrition assessments, as set forth in § 246.11(e)(3).|
(2) The State agency may authorize local agencies under its jurisdiction to establish shorter certification periods than outlined in paragraph (g)(1) of this section on a case-by-case basis. If the State agency exercises this option, it shall issue guidance for use by local agencies in establishing the shorter periods.
(3) In cases where there is difficulty in appointment scheduling for persons referenced in paragraphs (g)(1) (iii), (iv) and (v) of this section, the certification period may be shortened or extended by a period not to exceed 30 days.
(h) Mandatory and optional mid-certification actions. Mid-certification actions are either mandatory or optional as follows:
(1) Mandatory reassessment of income eligibility mid-certification.
(i) The local agency must reassess a participant's income eligibility during the current certification period if the local agency receives information indicating that the participant's household income has changed. However, such assessments are not required in cases where sufficient time does not exist to effect the change. Sufficient time means 90 days or less before the expiration of the certification period.
(ii) Mandatory disqualification mid-certification for income ineligibility. The local agency must disqualify a participant and any other household members currently receiving WIC benefits who are determined ineligible based on the mid-certification income reassessment. However, adjunctively-eligible WIC participants (as defined in paragraphs (d)(2)(vi)(A) or (d)(2)(vi)(B) of this section) may not be disqualified from the WIC Program solely because they, or certain family members, no longer participate in one of the other specified programs. The State agency will ensure that such participants and other household members currently receiving WIC benefits are disqualified during a certification period only after their income eligibility has been reassessed based on the income screening procedures used for applicants who are not adjunctively eligible.
(2) Mandatory sanctions or other actions for participant violations. The local agency must impose disqualifications, or take other actions in accordance with the procedures set forth in § 246.12(u), in response to participant violations including, but not limited to, the violations listed in the definition of Participant violation in § 246.2.
(3) Optional mid-certification actions. A participant may be disqualified during a certification period for the following reasons:
(i) A State agency may allow local agencies to disqualify a participant for failure to obtain food instruments, cash-value vouchers or supplemental foods for several consecutive months. As specified by the State agency, proof of such failure includes failure to pick up supplemental foods, cash-value vouchers or food instruments, nonreceipt of food instruments or cash-value vouchers (when mailed instruments or vouchers are returned), or failure to have an electronic benefit transfer card revalidated for purchase of supplemental foods; or
(ii) If a State agency experiences funding shortages, it may be necessary to discontinue Program benefits to some certified participants. The State agency must explore alternatives (such as elimination of new certifications) before taking such action. In discontinuing benefits, the State agency will affect the least possible number of participants and those whose nutritional and health status would be least impaired by the action. When a State agency elects to discontinue benefits due to insufficient funds, it will not enroll new participants during that period. The State may discontinue benefits by:
(A) Disqualifying a group of participants; and/or,
(B) Withholding benefits from a group with the expectation of providing benefits again when funds are available.
(1) Name and address;
(2) Date of initial visit to apply for participation;
(3) An indication of whether the applicant was physically present at certification and, if not, the reason why an exception was granted or a copy of the document(s) in the file which explains the reason for the exception;
(i) A description of the document(s) used to determine income eligibility or a copy of the document(s) in the file;
(iii) An indication that the applicant has no income.
(7) Height or length, weight, and hematological test results;
(8) The specific nutritional risk conditions which established eligibility for the supplemental foods. Documentation should include health history when appropriate to the nutritional risk condition, with the applicant's or applicant's parent's or caretaker's consent;
(9) The signature and title of the competent professional authority making the nutritional risk determination, and, if different, the signature and title of the administrative person responsible for determining income eligibility under the Program; and
(10) A statement of the rights and obligations under the Program. The statement must contain a signature space, and must be read by or to the applicant, parent, or caretaker. It must contain the following language or alternate language as approved by FNS (see § 246.4(a)(11)(i)), and be signed by the applicant, parent, or caretaker after the statement is read:
I have been advised of my rights and obligations under the Program. I certify that the information I have provided for my eligibility determination is correct, to the best of my knowledge. This certification form is being submitted in connection with the receipt of Federal assistance. Program officials may verify information on this form. I understand that intentionally making a false or misleading statement or intentionally misrepresenting, concealing, or withholding facts may result in paying the State agency, in cash, the value of the food benefits improperly issued to me and may subject me to civil or criminal prosecution under State and Federal law.
(i) Notifies applicants that the chief State health officer (or the governing authority, in the case of an Indian State agency) may authorize the use and disclosure of information about their participation in the WIC Program for non-WIC purposes;
(ii) Must indicate that such information will be used by State and local WIC agencies and public organizations only in the administration of their programs that serve persons eligible for the WIC Program; and,
(iii) Will be added to the statement required under paragraph (i)(10) of this section. This statement must also indicate that such information can be used by the recipient organizations only for the following:
(B) To conduct outreach for such programs;
(D) To streamline administrative procedures in order to minimize burdens on participants and staff; and,
(j) Notification of participant rights and responsibilities. In order to inform applicants and participants or their parents or caretakers of Program rights and responsibilities, the following information shall be provided. Where a significant number or proportion of the population eligible to be served needs the information in a language other than English, reasonable steps shall be taken to provide the information in appropriate languages to such persons, considering the scope of the Program and the size and concentration of such population.
(2) At the time of certification, each Program participant, parent or caretaker must read, or have read to him or her, the statement provided in paragraph (i)(10) of this section (or an alternate statement as approved by FNS). In addition, the following sentences (or alternate sentences as approved by FNS) must be read:
(3) If the State agency implements the policy of disqualifying a participant for not picking up supplemental foods, cash-value vouchers or food instruments in accordance with paragraph (h)(3)(i) of this section, it shall provide notice of this policy and of the importance of regularly picking up cash-value vouchers, food instruments or supplemental foods to each participant, parent or caretaker at the time of each certification.
(4) At least during the initial certification visit, each participant, parent or caretaker shall receive an explanation of how the local food delivery system operates and shall be advised of the types of health services available, where they are located, how they may be obtained and why they may be useful.
(5) Persons found ineligible for the Program during a certification visit shall be advised in writing of the ineligibility, of the reasons for the ineligibility, and of the right to a fair hearing. The reasons for ineligibility shall be properly documented and shall be retained on file at the local agency.
(6) A person who is about to be suspended or disqualified from program participation at any time during the certification period shall be advised in writing not less than 15 days before the suspension or disqualification. Such notification shall include the reasons for this action, and the participant's right to a fair hearing. Further, such notification need not be provided to persons who will be disqualified for not picking up cash-value vouchers, supplemental foods or food instruments in accordance with paragraph (h)(3)(i) of this section.
(7) When a State or local agency pursues collection of a claim pursuant to § 246.23(c) against an individual who has been improperly issued benefits, the person shall be advised in writing of the reason(s) for the claim, the value of the improperly issued benefits which must be repaid, and of the right to a fair hearing.
(9) If a State agency must suspend or terminate benefits to any participant during the participant's certification period due to a shortage of funds for the Program, it shall issue a notice to such participant in advance, as stipulated in paragraph (j)(6) of this section.
(10) During the certification procedure, every Program applicant, parent or caretaker shall be informed that selling or offering to sell WIC benefits, including cash value vouchers, food instruments, EBT cards, or supplemental foods in person, in print, or on-line is a participant violation.
(k) Transfer of certification.
(1) Each State agency shall ensure issuance of a Verification of Certification card to every participant who is a member of a family in which there is a migrant farmworker or any other participant who is likely to be relocating during the certification period. Certifying local agencies shall ensure that Verification of Certification cards are fully completed.
(2) The State agency shall require the receiving local agency to accept Verification of Certification cards from participants, including participants who are migrant farmworkers or members of their families, who have been participating in the Program in another local agency within or outside of the jurisdiction of the State agency. A person with a valid Verification of Certification card shall not be denied participation in the receiving State because the person does not meet that State's particular eligibility criteria.
(3) The Verification of Certification card is valid until the certification period expires, and shall be accepted as proof of eligibility for Program benefits. If the receiving local agency has waiting lists for participation, the transferring participant shall be placed on the list ahead of all waiting applicants.
(4) The Verification of Certification card shall include the name of the participant, the date the certification was performed, the date income eligibility was last determined, the nutritional risk condition of the participant, the date the certification period expires, the signature and printed or typed name of the certifying local agency official, the name and address of the certifying local agency and an identification number or some other means of accountability. The Verification of Certification card shall be uniform throughout the jurisdiction of the State agency.
(l) Dual participation. The State agency is responsible for the following:
(1) In conjunction with WIC local agencies, the prevention and identification of dual participation within each local agency and between local agencies under the State agency's jurisdiction, including actions to identify suspected instances of dual participation at least semiannually. The State or local agency must take follow-up action within 120 days of detecting instances of suspected dual participation;
(2) In areas where a local agency serves the same population as an Indian State agency or a CSFP agency, and in areas where geographical or other factors make it likely that participants travel regularly between contiguous local service areas located across State agency borders, entering into an agreement with the other agency for the detection and prevention of dual participation. The agreement must be made in writing and included in the State Plan;
(4) In cases of dual participation resulting from intentional misrepresentation, the collection of improperly issued benefits in accordance with § 246.23(c)(1) and disqualification from both programs in accordance with § 246.12(u)(2).
(m) Certification of persons in homeless facilities and institutions.
(1) Pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants or children who meet the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section, and who reside in a homeless facility, shall be considered eligible for the Program and shall be treated equally with all other eligible applicants at the local agency where they apply for WIC benefits, Provided that: the State or local agency has taken reasonable steps to:
(A) The homeless facility does not accrue financial or in-kind benefit from a person's participation in the Program, e.g., by reducing its expenditures for food service because its residents are receiving WIC foods;
(ii) Contact the homeless facility periodically to ensure continued compliance with these conditions; and
(2) The State agency may authorize or require local agencies to make the Program available to applicants who meet the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section, but who reside in institutions which meet the conditions of paragraphs (n)(1)(i)(A)-(C) of this section with respect to resident WIC participants.
(3) The State or local agency shall attempt to establish to the best of its ability,whether a homeless facility or institution complies with the conditions of paragraphs (n)(1)(i) (A)-(C) of this section with respect to WIC participants. If caseload slots are available, full certification periods shall be provided to the following:
(4) If a homeless facility or institution has been determined to be noncompliant during the course of a participant's initial certification period, participants applying for continued benefits may be certified again, but the State agency shall discontinue issuance of WIC foods, except infant formula, to the participant in such accommodation until the accommodation's compliance is achieved or alternative shelter arrangements are made. If certified, such participants shall continue to be eligible to receive all other WIC benefits, such as nutrition education, including breastfeeding promotion and support, and health care referral services.
(5) The State agency shall continue to the end of their certification periods the participation of residents of a homeless facility or institution which ceases to comply with the conditions of paragraphs (n)(1)(i)(A)-(C) of this section.
(6) As soon as the State or local agency determines that a homeless facility/institution does not meet the conditions of paragraphs (n)(1)(i) (A)-(C) of this section, it shall refer all participants using such accommodation to any other accommodations in the area which meet these conditions.
(n) Drug and other harmful substance abuse screening. When a State agency determines that screening is necessary to fulfill the referral requirements in this part, the State agency must require screening for the use of drugs and other harmful substances. When such screening is required, it shall:
(1) Be limited to the extent the State agency deems necessary to fulfill the referral requirement of § 246.4(a)(8) of this part and the drug and other harmful substance abuse information requirement of § 246.11(a)(3) of this part; and
(2) Be integrated into certification process as part of the medical or nutritional assessment.
(o) Are applicants required to be physically present at certification? -
(2) Exceptions -
(i) Disabilities. The State or local agency must grant an exception to applicants who are qualified individuals with disabilities and are unable to be physically present at the WIC clinic because of their disabilities or applicants whose parents or caretakers are individuals with disabilities that meet this standard. Examples of such situations include:
(A) A medical condition that necessitates the use of medical equipment that is not easily transportable;
(B) A medical condition that requires confinement to bed rest; and
(ii) Receiving ongoing health care. The State agency may exempt from the physical presence requirement, if being physically present would pose an unreasonable barrier, an infant or child who was present at his/her initial WIC certification and is receiving ongoing health care.
(iii) Working parents or caretakers. The State agency may exempt from the physical presence requirement an infant or child who was present at his/her initial WIC certification and was present at a WIC certification or recertification determination within the 1-year period ending on the date of the most recent certification or recertification determination and is under the care of one or more working parents or one or more primary working caretakers whose working status presents a barrier to bringing the infant or child in to the WIC clinic.
(iv) Infants under 8 weeks of age. The State agency may exempt from the physical presence requirement an infant under eight (8) weeks of age who cannot be present at certification for a reason determined appropriate by the local agency, and for whom all necessary certification information is provided.
(p) Certification of qualified aliens. In those cases where a person sponsors a qualified alien, (as the term is defined in the Immigration and Nationality Laws (8 U.S.C.1101 et seq.)), i.e., signs an affidavit of support, the sponsor's income, including the income of the sponsor's spouse, shall not be counted in determining the income eligibility of the qualified alien except when the alien is a member of the sponsor's family or economic unit. Sponsors of qualified aliens are not required to reimburse the State or local agency or the Federal government for WIC Program benefits provided to sponsored aliens. Further, qualified aliens are eligible for the WIC Program without regard to the length of time in the qualifying status.