DFR policy changes and actions
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
As a result of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, states are being provided the opportunity to submit plans for approval in order to implement the following optional provisions:
Pandemic EBT – providing nutrition support benefits to SNAP and non-SNAP households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic related school closures. The child’s school or district will be (or has been) closed for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation.
P-EBT benefits have been issued to nearly all of the 600,000 school aged children on the list received from DOE. DFR continues to work through phone calls and e-mails received from individuals who have not yet received benefits. Click here for more specific information on Pandemic EBT benefits.
Emergency allotments to address temporary food needs to households by bringing all households up to the maximum benefit due to pandemic related economic conditions for up to 2 months.
Current status: DFR submitted a formal request to USDA/Food and Nutrition Service on March 26, 2020, in order to be granted permission to proceed in issuing emergency allotments for the months of April and May 2020. It is important to note that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act allows the state to provide these additional SNAP benefits to those who are currently not receiving the monthly maximum allotment for their household size. Those already receiving the maximum allotment will not receive an emergency allotment. This request was approved via email on March 27, 2020. See news release dated April 3, 2020 noting the schedule for release of these benefits.
DFR has submitted requests for Emergency allotments to continue in June and July 2020. USDA/Food and Nutrition Service has reviewed and approved DFR to proceed in issuing emergency allotments for both months. June 2020 emergency allotments have been issued. Emergency allotments for July 2020 will be issued so long as the State declared public health emergency remains in effect at least one day into July 2020.
Additional actions/waivers pursued
On March 23, 2020, DFR requested the following waivers from the USDA/ Food and Nutrition Service.
- A request to allow for all certification periods to be extended by 12 months for all recertifications that are due during the national state of emergency.
- A waiver to suspend all reporting requirements during the certification period including submission of the interim report during the national state of emergency; and
- Suspend the requirement that states must offer clients the option to have their SNAP certification and recertification interviews in-person
FNS has approved all of the above waiver requests. The approval document for the first two listed waivers is available here. Extension of certification period is approved for six months and reporting requirements are waived through May 2020. Waivers for extension of certification periods and suspension of reporting requirements were subsequently approved for extension to June 30, 2020. On June 23, 2020, DFR submitted a waiver request to extend certification periods and suspend reporting requirements through July 2020; however, these waivers were denied by USDA/FNS on June 29, 2020.The waiver to suspend offering clients the option for interviews in person has been extended through July 2020.
The waiver of in-person interviews was approved on March 26, 2020 as part of a blanket waiver approval from the USDA/Food and Nutrition Service. This blanket waiver also includes a waiver of the interview on applications if identity and mandatory verifications are obtained. As well, this blanket waiver includes a waiver of the interview on expedited applications if identity is verified and the state has made an attempt to contact the applicant via phone. DFR has informed USDA/FNS that we will be opting in to each of the interview waivers offered. This waiver is effective through June 30, 2020.
On March 26, 2020, DFR requested an additional waiver from the USDA/Food and Nutrition Service. This request, if granted, would waive closures and benefit reduction adverse actions for 90 days or until the month following the month the state of emergency ends. This waiver request is currently under review by the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service. This waiver was denied on April 10, 2020.
On April 8, 2020, DFR requested a waiver from USDA/Food and Nutrition Service. This request, if granted, would allow DFR to suppress all data matches received through the Income and Eligibility Verification System while under the public health emergency. This waiver request is currently under review by USDA/FNS. This waiver request was approved by USDA/FNS on April 9, 2020. This waiver is effective through June 30, 2020.
On April 9, 2020, DFR requested a waiver from USDA/Food and Nutrition Service. This request, if granted, would allow an additional 30 days in the conducting of a fair hearing, reaching a decision and notification of the decision. This waiver request is currently under review by USDA/FNS. This waiver was approved on April 14, 2020. This waiver is effective through June 30, 2020.
On April 10, 2020, USDA/FNS issued a memo to states identifying that certain waiver requests do not meet the requirements for approval under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. These include waivers of:
- Restrictions on student eligibility,
- Providing emergency allotments that exceed the maximum benefit for household size,
- State agency responsibility to reduce or terminate benefits when a household’s circumstances change or the household is found to be ineligible,
- Treating all applications as if they are eligible for expedited processing,
- Requirements to use documentary evidence as the primary source of verification for all items except residency and household size and,
- Requirements to verify gross non-exempt income.
On April 11, 2020, USDA/FNS release a Q/A document to address provisions related to COVID-19. In this document, FNS notes that stimulus payments authorized under Section 2201(a) of the CARES Act are excluded as income. Pandemic unemployment assistance payments, pandemic unemployment compensation and pandemic emergency unemployment compensation authorized under the CARES Act are considered as unearned income for SNAP eligibility.
On April 13, 2020, USDA/FNS issued a blanket waiver approval in order to allow states (at state option) to suspend any claims activity and claims collections through May 2020. On April 15, 2020, DFR informed USDA/FNS that we would be using this waiver. This waiver is effective through June 30, 2020.
SNAP On-Line Purchasing Project: Indiana is currently pursuing this option that would allow authorized food stores (currently Amazon and Wal-Mart) to accept SNAP benefits via on-line transactions. A plan is in development and once complete, will be submitted to USDA/FNS for review and approval. Currently, the only way for a Hoosier SNAP client to use SNAP benefits to pay for delivered food is if the delivery person has a wireless device which can be used to swipe the client’s EBT card on delivery. On April 16, 2020, DFR submitted our plan for implementation of the SNAP On-Line purchasing project. This is pending review by USDA/FNS. On-Line purchasing has been implemented. Click on this link for more information.
Pending further direction, we are exempting able-bodied adults without dependents so that SNAP benefits will continue. Please note that our employment and training staff with the IMPACT program will be reaching out to clients via phone in order to offer services. Participation in the call and offer of services is strictly voluntary with no risk to SNAP benefits.
Additional information on FNS waivers state-by-state is available here.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
The following policy changes have been implemented effective immediately:
- For applicants, removing the upfront applicant job search requirements
- For those receiving TANF, removing the work requirement and full family sanction.
Please note that our employment and training staff with the IMPACT program will be reaching out to clients via phone in order to offer services. Participation in the call and offer of services is strictly voluntary with no risk to TANF benefits.
Extending the certification periods and waiving the interview at recertification.
HHS/Administration for Children and Families issued a policy statement on April 11, 2020, concerning stimulus payments and pandemic unemployment payments. Stimulus payments are exempt as income for TANF. States have an option on how to consider the additional pandemic unemployment assistance. Federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which provides an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting regular state or Federal UC, through weeks of unemployment ending on or before July 31, 2020.
Indiana will consider the emergency unemployment compensation noted above as exempt from consideration as income for TANF.