March 16, 2009

 

Food Stamp Program Guide Letter #541

 

 

Subject

IMPLEMENTATION OF PROVISIONS IN THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT OF 2009

 

 

Purpose

The purpose of this letter is to provide information and implementation instructions regarding changes to the Food Stamp Program (FSP)   resulting from the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009.

 

 

Effective Date

April 1, 2009.

 

 

Reference

All County Letter No. 09-12

 

 

ARRA Provisions Summary

The ARRA provisions that immediately affect FSP are:

 

·  Temporary increase in food stamp benefit allotments of 13.6 percent;

 

·  Disregard in the increased amount in benefits when determining the amount of overpayments; 

 

·  Increase in the minimum monthly benefit allotment of one and two persons from $14 to $16;

 

·  Elimination of the Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDS) work requirements through September 30, 2010;

 

·  Increase the Quality Control (QC) error tolerance level from $25 to $50 between April 1, 2009 and September 30, 2009;

 

The ARRA provisions that may impact FSP include:

 

·  An increase in unemployment benefits by $25 per week;

 

·  A one-time payment of $250 to Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP), Railroad Retirement and Veterans and Veterans Disability Compensation or Pension recipients;

 

·  Tax credits of $400 ($800 for families filing a joint income tax return); and

 

·  Temporary increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

 

 

Temporary Allotment Increase of 13.6 Percent

Food stamp benefits will increase by 13.6 percent effective April 1, 2009.  This is an increase from the June 2008 value of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP).

 

The chart below shows the maximum benefit allotment adjustments under the ARRA by family size.

 

Household Size

Maximum Allotment

(April 01, 2009)

1

$200

2

$367

3

$526

4

$668

5

$793

6

$952

7

$1,052

8

$1,202

Each additional person

$150

 

·  The increased adjustments will remain effective until the cost of the June 2008 TFP exceeds the levels set in the ARRA legislation.

 

·  Because cost of living adjustment (COLA) increases are generally less than 13.6 percent, there will not be a COLA increase effective October 1, 2009 or 2010, unless the combined cost of the TFP for Federal Fiscal Years 2009/2010 exceeds 13.6 percent.

 

Impact of Increase for Change Reporting (CR) and Quarterly Reporting (QR) Households

 

The stimulus adjustment will be implemented the same way the COLAs have been implemented in the past.  The stimulus adjustments are effective on April 1, 2009 for CR and QR households.  If April falls mid-quarter in a QR household, the ARRA adjustments are effective April 1st and are treated as a county initiated mid-quarter change as explained in FSPG 63-285.1.

 

 

Disregarding the Allotment Increase when Determining Overpayments

The ARRA allows the exclusion of the allotment increase when determining the amount of food stamp overpayments for food stamp recipients.

 

To determine the amount of a food stamp overpayment between April 1, 2009 and September 1, 2009, for ongoing households, workers will use the maximum allotment tables issued with FSPG Special Notice 08-09 for Federal Fiscal Year 2008/2009 until otherwise notified.

 

The table below shows maximum allotments for the period of October 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009 and the period starting in April 1, 2009:

 

Household Size

Maximum Allotment

(October 01, 2008 - March 31, 2009)

Maximum Allotment

(April 01, 2009 - )

1

$176

$200

2

$323

$367

3

$463

$526

4

$588

$668

5

$698

$793

6

$838

$952

7

$926

$1,052

8

$1,058

$1,202

Each additional person

$132

$150

 

NOTE:  For households applying on April 1, 2009, workers will compute overpayments using the new (April 2009) maximum allotments.

 

Strategic Planning and Operational Support (SPOS) will issue further clarification as soon as the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) provides additional information.

 

 

Minimum Allotment

For Households Receiving Benefits

With the new maximum allotment increase, the minimum monthly benefit amount for categorically eligible households of one and two persons is also increasing from $14 to $16.  

 

For Applicant Households

The Food Stamp Act of 2008 (Farm Bill) increased the previous $10 minimum allotment from $10 to $14 for households already receiving benefits.  However, for applicant households, the $10 threshold does not change.  If the allotment for the month of application is determined to be less than $10 (after proration), the applicant will not receive benefits for the application month as explained in FSPG 63-251.2 (MPP section 63-503.132).

 

 

Able Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWDS)

Starting April 1, 2009, the restrictions on food stamp eligibility for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) will be lifted until September 30, 2010.  This means that during this period, workers:

 

·  Cannot discontinue food stamp recipients for failure to satisfy the ABAWD work requirement, and

 

·  Will stop tracking ABAWD 36-month calendars beginning April 1, 2009.

 

NOTE:

·  This provision also applies to California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) households, and

 

·  Supersedes the statewide waiver so that all existing ABAWD calendars will be stopped effective April 1, 2009.  A brand new 36-month calendar will begin October 1, 2010 for all ABAWDs.

 

·  ABAWDs are still subject to sanctions for failure to comply with requirements of the Food Stamp Employment and Training (FSET) program or other allowable work programs as defined in FSPG 63-158 (MPP Section 63-407).

 

CDSS will be working with the California Department of Health Care Services to determine what changes will need to be made to start up the new ABAWD 36-month calendars on the Medi-Cal Eligibility Data System beginning October 1, 2010.  SPOS will issue further clarifications as soon as CDSS provides additional information.

 

 

Income and Benefits Provided by the ARRA

INCREASED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS (UIB)

Any UIB received by a household due to the stimulus legislation is considered income to the household.

 

The amount of the increase is $25 per week above the current benefit amount. States are given two options to issue these payments.

 

To issue:

 

1. As an amount which is paid at the same time and in the same manner as any regular weekly payment, or

 

2. By payments which are made separately from, but on the same weekly basis as any regular UIB compensation.

 

The $25 UIB increase begins on the date the State enters into an agreement with the Secretary of Labor and ends before January 1, 2010.  Since the exact circumstances and payment timeline are unknown, workers will not yet anticipate these UIB payments for QR households.  However, UIB payments received as single back payments will be treated as lump-sum income according to FSPG 63-224.11 [MPP section 63-502.2(j)].

 

 

RECIPIENTS OF SOCIAL SECURITY, RAILROAD RETIREMENT BENEFITS, VETERANS DISABILITY COMPENSATION OR PENSION BENEFITS, AND SSI/SSP

Economic one-time recovery payments in the amount of $250 will be issued to these recipients. These payments are not to be considered a benefit payment or cash benefit.  They are considered excluded as income and as a resource. More information will be forthcoming concerning the timing of these payments as it becomes available.

 

 

TAX CREDITS

Tax credits received directly by the household as a result of ARRA are excluded as income.  They include:

 

·  Making Work Pay Credit: For an eligible individual, an allowance equal to the lesser of: (1) 6.2 percent of the earned income of the taxpayer, or (2) $400 ($800 in the case of a joint return).

 

·  Temporary Increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): An EITC increase due to a 45 percent increase for a taxpayer with 3 or more children or reduction of the marriage penalty.

 

 

Client Correspondence- Mass Change Notice

The FS 31 (ENG/SP) notice informs households about the ARRA changes.  The county must inform all households of the ARRA changes on or before April 1, 2009.

 

To notify households, Family Resource Centers (FRCs) will place copies of the FS 31, ARRA Changes Mass Notice, in lobbies and other areas frequented by clients.

 

 

Automation Impact

The COLA mass update process ran the weekend of March 14th, 2009.   Cases containing food stamps are included in the run.  The run will also update the allotment for all food stamp cases that are in CalWIN. 

 

The batch AU Exception indicators listed below are being lifted during the COLA process.  Once the COLA is completed, the Batch AU indicators will be restored.

 

Type of Special Indicator

CA -  (CAPI)

Batch AU Exception-CA

CW - (CalWORKs)

Batch AU Exception-CW

FS - (Food Stamps)

Batch AU Exception-FS

GA - (General Relief)

Batch AU Exception-GA

MC – (Medi-Cal)

Batch AU Exception-MC

RC – (RCA)

Batch AU Exception-RC

 

Exception reports generated after the COLA will be distributed to staff once they have been reviewed by SPOS.

 

OVERPAYMENTS

·  CalWIN will not be updated to compute overpayments occurring between April through September 2009 for food stamp recipients.  The Project is currently working on a BENDs to process the overissuances that will require different allotment amounts for food stamp recipients. 

 

·  Staff can manually re-compute (April through September 2009) overpayments for food stamp recipients using the Scratch Budget by changing the “1st Month of Budget Quarter” in line 7 to a month prior to April 2009.

 

 

Scratch Budget

The Scratch Budget has been updated.  Staff can access the April 2009 version by clicking on the link:

 

Scratch Budget (April 2009).   The Scratch Budget is located in the

S:\ENTERPRISE\QR Excel Spreadsheet folder.

 

 

FSPG Changes/ Updates

The FSPG has been updated as follows:

 

FSPG Section

Title

Description

63-1101.2

Food Stamp Maximum Allotment Table

Table updated to April 2009 maximum allotments at zero income

63-1101.5

Food Stamp Allotment Table

Table of benefit issuance updated to April 2009 allotments

63-1102

Income Deductions

Table

Assistance Standards Table for CalWORKs and Food Stamp table updated to April 2009 allotments

63-506.5

Income and Resource Test
 

Disaster Food Stamp Program (DFSP) eligibility test table updated to April 2009 allotments

63-501.7

DFSP Desk Aid

Updated the DFSP Desk Aid eligibility test table (page 3) with the April 2009 allotments and added  the desk aid to the chapter

 

 

 

Allowable Quality Control (QC) Tolerance

QC reviews are conducted to determine if households are eligible to receive benefits and to determine if correct benefits are being issued.

 

The ARRA raises the error tolerance level from $25 to $50.  Starting with the April 2009 sample month reviews, QC will not cite errors under $50.  This regulation will be in effect until September 2009 sample month reviews. 

 

NOTE:  Negative case reviews are not affected by this act.

 

 

 

Quality Control (QC) and Quality Assurance (QA) Impact

QC and QA will exclude all variances (errors) associated with the maximum benefit increase of April 1, 2009 through September 2009.

 

The hold harmless applies only to variances resulting from mistakes in the amount of benefits authorized for a household resulting from the application of the temporary increased benefit amount.

 

Refer to the “Allowable Quality Control (QC) Tolerance” section above for information related to the temporary error tolerance level.

 

 

Assistant Deputy Director

(Original signed 03/16/09)

 

 

 

 

JAYE YOSHONIS

Assistant Deputy Director

Self-Sufficiency Programs

Strategic Planning & Operational Support

 

 

OA

DR -Automation