7 CFR § 273.23 - Simplified application and standardized benefit projects.

§ 273.23 Simplified application and standardized benefit projects.

(a) General. This subpart establishes rules under which Simplified Application and Standardized Benefit Projects shall operate. State agencies and political subdivisions chosen as project operators may designate households containing members receiving TANF, SSI, or Medicaid benefits as project eligible. Project eligible households shall have their SNAP eligibility determined using simplified application procedures. SNAP eligibility shall be determined using information contained in their TANF, or Medicaid application, or, in the case of SSI, on the State Data Exchange (SDX) tape, and any appropriate addendum. Project-eligible households shall be considered categorically SNAP resource eligible based on their eligibility for these other programs and shall be required to meet SNAP income eligibility standards. However, income definitions appropriate to the TANF, SSI or Medicaid programs shall be used instead of SNAP income definitions in determining eligibility. In addition, such households shall, as a condition of program eligibility, meet and/or fulfill all SNAP nonfinancial eligibility requirements. (Project-eligible households defined as categorically eligible in § 273.2 (j) and (k) of these regulations are not required to meet the income eligibility standards.) To further simplify program administration, benefits provided to such households may be standardized by category of assistance and household size.

(b) Program administration.

(1) Simplified application and standardized benefit procedures are applicable in five States and five political subdivisions. For the purpose of this section, a political subdivision is a project area as defined in § 271.2 of these regulations.

(2) State agencies and political subdivisions seeking to operate a Simplified Application and Standardized Benefit Project shall submit Work Plans to FNS in accordance with the requirements of this section.

(3) FNS shall evaluate Work Plans according to the criteria set forth in the Simplified Application/Standardized Benefit Notice of Intent.

(4) Political subdivisions shall submit their Work Plans to FNS through their respective State agencies for review and approval.

(5) A State agency selected by FNS to operate a Simplified Application and Standardized Benefit Project shall include the Work Plan in its State Plan of Operations. A political subdivision chosen to operate a Simplified Application and Standardized Benefit Project shall assure that the responsible State agency include that political subdivision's project Work Plan in its own State Plan of Operations. The Work Plan shall be updated, as needed, to reflect changes in the benefit methodology, subject to prior FNS approval.

(c) Contents of the work plan. The Work Plan submitted by each applicant shall contain the following information:

(1) Background information on the proposed site's characteristics, current operating procedures, and a general description of the proposed procedures;

(2) A description of the proposed project design, including the benefit methodology, households which will be project eligible, operational procedures, and the need for waivers;

(3) An implementation and monitoring plan describing tasks, staffing and a timetable for implementation;

(4) An estimate of project impacts including implementation costs and, on an annual basis, operating costs, administrative costs, error reduction, and benefit changes; and

(5) A statement signed by the State official with authority to commit the State or political subdivisions to the project's operation.

(d) Project-eligible households. Each operating agency shall decide which of the following categories of household shall be eligible to participate in the project.

(1) Households all of whose members receive TANF benefits under part A of title IV of the Social Security Act;

(2) Households all of whose members receive SSI benefits under title XVI of the Social Security Act;

(3) Households all of whose members receive Medicaid benefits under title XIX of the Social Security Act;

(4) Households each of whose members receive one or more of the following: TANF, SSI, or Medicaid benefits (multiple-benefit households); and

(5) Households only some of whose members receive TANF, SSI, and/or Medicaid benefits (mixed households).

(e) Determining SNAP eligibility. Under the Simplified Application and Standardized Benefit Project, project eligible households shall have their SNAP eligibility determined using the following criteria.

(1) Certain households, at the operating agency's option, which contain members receiving TANF, SSI, or Medicaid benefits, shall be designated project eligible and need not make separate application for SNAP benefits. Once such households indicate in writing a desire to receive SNAP benefits, their eligibility will be determined based on information contained in their application for TANF or Medicaid benefits or, in the case of SSI, on the State Data Exchange (SDX) tape. TANF or Medicaid applications may need to be modified, or be subject to an addendum in order to accommodate any additional information required by the operating agency.

(2) The income definitions and resource requirements prescribed under § 273.9 (b) and (c) and § 273.8 are inapplicable to project-eligible households. Project-eligible households which have met the resource requirements of the TANF, SSI, and/or Medicaid programs shall be considered to have satisfied the SNAP resource requirements. Gross income less any allowed exclusions, as defined by the appropriate categorical aid program, shall be used to determine SNAP income eligibility (unless the project household is categorically income eligible as defined in § 273.2 (j) and (k)) and benefit levels. Deemed income, as defined under TANF, SSI or Medicaid rules, shall be excluded to the extent that households with such income are part of the SNAP household providing the deemed income.

(3) Project-eligible households which are not categorically income eligible shall meet the gross and net income standards prescribed in § 273.9(a). Net income shall be determined by subtracting from gross income either actual or standardized deduction amounts. If standardized deduction amounts are used, they may be initially determined using recent historical data on deductions claimed by such households. Such deductions must be updated, as necessary, on at least an annual basis. Such deductions shall include:

(i) The current standard deduction for all households;

(ii) An excess shelter deduction and a dependent care deduction for households not containing an elderly or disabled member;

(iii) A dependent care deduction, an uncapped excess shelter deduction and a medical deduction for households containing a qualified elderly or disabled member; and

(iv) A standardized or actual earned income deduction for households containing members with earned income.

(4) All non-financial SNAP eligibility requirements shall be applicable to project-eligible households.

(f) Benefit levels.

(1) In establishing benefits for project eligible households, either the appropriate State standard of need (maximum aid payment) or gross income as determined for the appropriate categorical aid program plus the value of any monetary categorical benefits received, if any, may be used as the gross income amount. If mixed households are designated project eligible, procedures shall be developed to include as household income the income of those household members not receiving categorical aid.

(2) If allotments are standardized, the average allotment for each category of household, by household size, shall be no less than average allotments would have been were the project not in operation.

(3) Benefit methodologies shall be constructed to ensure that benefits received by households having higher than average allotments under normal program rules are not significantly reduced as a result of standardization.

(4) Benefit methodologies shall be structured to ensure that decreases in household benefits are not reduced by more than $10 or 20%, whichever is less.

(5) The methodology to be used in developing benefit levels shall be determined by the operating agency but shall be subject to FNS approval.

(6) With FNS approval, operating agencies may develop an alternate methodology for standardizing allotments/deductions for specific sizes and categories of households where such size and category is so small as to make the use of average deductions and/or allotments impractical.

(7) FNS may require operating agencies to revise their standardized allotments during the course of the project to reflect changes in items such as household characteristics, the Thrifty Food Plan, deduction amounts, the benefit reduction rate, or benefit levels in TANF or SSI. Such changes will be documented by revising the Work Plan amendment to the State Plan of Operations.

(g) Household notification. All certified project-eligible households residing in the selected project sites shall be provided with a notice, prior to project commencement, informing them of the revised procedures and household requirements under the project. If household allotments are to be standardized, the notice shall also provide specific information on the value of the newly computed benefit and the formula used to calculate the benefit. The notice shall meet the requirements of a notice of adverse action as set forth in § 273.13(a)(2).

(h) Application processing procedures.

(1) The operating agency shall allow project-eligible households to indicate in writing their desire to receive SNAP benefits. Such households shall be notified in writing, at the time such indication is made, that information contained in their TANF, SSI, or Medicaid application will be the basis of their SNAP eligibility determination. If mixed households are included in the project-eligible universe, the project operator shall develop a procedure to collect the necessary information on household members not receiving categorical aid.

(2) The operating agency may use simplified application and standardized benefit procedures only for those households containing at least one member certified to receive either TANF, SSI, or Medicaid benefits. If simplified procedures are to be used, the State agency shall make all eligibility determinations for households jointly applying for SNAP benefits and TANF, SSI, or Medicaid benefits within the 30-day SNAP processing period. If a household's eligibility for TANF, SSI, or Medicaid cannot be established within the 30-day period, normal SNAP application, certification, and benefit determination procedures shall be used and benefits shall be issued within 30 days if the household is eligible. Households which are jointly applying for TANF, SSI, or Medicaid, and which qualify for expedited service, shall be certified for SNAP benefits using procedures prescribed at § 273.2(i). However, if the State agency can process the application of an expedited service household for categorical assistance within the expedited period prescribed at § 273.2(i), it may use simplified application and standardized benefit procedures to certify the household for SNAP benefits.

(i) Regulatory requirements.

(1) All SNAP regulations shall remain in effect unless they are expressly altered by the provisions of this section or the provisions contained within the approved SA/SB Work Plan.

(2) Certification periods for mixed households. At the option of the operating agency, mixed households may be assigned certification periods of up to one year. Such households, if circumstances warrant, may be required to attend a face-to-face interview on a schedule which would conform to certification periods normally assigned such households as specified in § 273.10(f). At the time of the interview, the household shall be required to complete a modified application and provide additional information in accordance with § 273.2(f). If the household fails to comply with the interview review requirement or if information obtained indicates a revision in household eligibility or benefits, action will be taken in accordance with§ 273.13, Notice of Adverse Action.

(j) Quality control.

(1) Project eligible households selected for quality control review shall be reviewed by the State agency using special procedures, based on project requirements, which have been developed by the State agency and approved by FNS.

(2) The error rate(s) determined using the special quality control review procedures shall be included when determining the State agency's overall error rate.

(k) Funding. Operating agencies shall be reimbursed for project costs at the rates prescribed in § 277.4.

(l) Evaluation. Each project site shall conduct a self-evaluation of the project's impact on benefits, administrative costs and participation. Such evaluation shall be conducted within three months of project implementation. The results of the self-evaluation shall be sent to FNS within six months of project implementation. The impact of the project on project-eligible households' error rates shall be reported on an annual basis in accordance with § 273.23(m).

(m) Reporting requirements. Operating agencies shall be required to prepare and submit to FNS an annual report on the error rate attributable to project-eligible households. The timing of such reports shall coincide with the due date for the annual quality control report prescribed in § 275.21(d).

(n) State agency monitoring. Monitoring shall be undertaken to ensure compliance with these regulations and the Work Plan submitted to and approved by FNS. Project monitoring shall be conducted in accordance with the appropriate sections of part 275, Performance Reporting System, of these regulations. At a minimum, onsite reviews of the Simplified Application and Standardized Benefit Project shall be conducted once within six months of the project's implementation and then in accordance with the Management Evaluation review schedule for the project area.

(o) Termination.

(1) FNS may terminate project operations for any reason and at any time on 60 days written notice to the administering State agency or political subdivision. State or local agencies may also choose to terminate their participation with 60 days written notice to FNS. In either such event, operating agencies shall be given sufficient time to return to normal operations in an orderly fashion.

(2) If termination occurs, FNS may select another site for project operations. Such selection shall be based on either previously received project proposals or proposals received under a new solicitation.

[53 FR 26224, July 12, 1988]