July 1, 2009

 

Food Stamp Program Guide (FSPG) Letter #545

 

Subject

MODIFIED CATEGORICAL ELIGIBILITY (MCE) FOR THE FOOD STAMP PROGRAM

 

 

Purpose

The purpose of this letter is to inform staff of the expansion of Categorical Eligibility (CE), provide implementation instructions and answers to questions regarding Modified Categorical Eligibility (MCE).

 

 

Reference

All County Letter No. 09-24

 

 

Effective Date

·  July 1, 2009 for the existing Non-Assistance Food Stamp (NAFS) cases and

 

·  December 1, 2009 for new NAFS applicants.

 

 

Background

Current Food Stamp Program (FSP) regulations provide categorical eligibility (CE) to FS households in which all members receive cash aid benefits, such as California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) or General Relief (GR) programs.  These households are not subject to the:

 

·  Gross income test (130 percent of federal poverty level),

·  Net income test (100 percent of federal poverty level), or

·  FS resource test.

 

 

Expansion of Categorical Eligibility

The “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996” (welfare reform), allowed states greater flexibility in determining which households receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or TANF/Maintenance of Effort (MOE) benefits or services may be considered categorically eligible for the FSP.

 

AB 433 required the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to establish a program of categorical eligibility for food stamps in accordance with the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to improve nutrition and promote the retention and development of assets and resources for needy households who meet all other FSP eligibility requirements. 

 

As a result, CDSS established the Modified Categorical Eligibility (MCE) program.  Under MCE, resources will not be considered for the purpose of determining FSP eligibility for NAFS household which include a child under 18 years of age. 

 

This change is expected to:

 

·  Increase participation in the FSP in California, particularly among working poor families; and

 

·  Reduce the workload and case processing time as staff will no longer need to act on resource information for MCE households.  Under MCE, resource information will not impact FSP eligibility.

 

 

Modified Categorical Eligibility (MCE) Definition

A NAFS household which includes a child under 18 years of age exceeding the FS resource limits, but otherwise eligible to FS, will be considered MCE after receiving a TANF/MOE-funded service.

 

The TANF/MOE-funded service will be in the form of the “Family Planning – PUB 275” brochure.  The brochure contains information on locating family planning services providers and the benefits of family planning services available to assist households in need.

 

NOTE:  The child under 18 does not have to be eligible for FS (i.e. SSI/SSP or and ineligible noncitizen) but must be part of the FS household that purchases and prepares food together.

 

 

Difference Between Categorical Eligibility (CE) and Modified Categorical Eligibility (MCE)

CATEGORICAL ELIGIBILITY (CE)

A household in which all members receive or are authorized to receive cash aid through a Public Assistance (PA) program funded in full or in part with Federal money under Title IV-A are automatically eligible for food stamps as CE.

 

When determining eligibility for a CE household, all FSP requirements apply except that certain factors such as sponsored noncitizen information, residency, social security number and resources are determined eligible based on the cash program and verification of these items are not required for the FSP.

 

MODIFIED CATEGORICAL ELIGIBILITY (MCE)

A household that includes a child (under 18 years old) receiving TANF/Maintenance of Effort (MOE) benefits or services is considered to be MCE to the FSP.

 

·  The resources of MCE households will not be considered when determining FSP eligibility. 

 

 

Family Resource Centers (FRC)/ HSS Action

Human Services Specialists (HSSs) will grant MCE to households exceeding the FSP resource limits, but otherwise eligible for FS, when the household includes a child under 18, by providing the household with the TANF/MOE-funded service “Family Planning – PUB 275” brochure.

 

EXISTING (ONGOING) NAFS CASELOADS

 

Effective July 1, 2009, HSSs will provide the “Family Planning – PUB 275 brochure to the head of household or AR of NAFS households, which includes a child under 18:

 

·  At recertification, and

 

·  Anytime during the certification period when the household is determined to be ineligible due to excess resources.

 

-    The HSS will inform the household they are required to report resources on the QR 7.

 

The HSS will narrate in CalWIN case comments that the head of household and/or AR received PUB 275 and has been granted as MCE.

 

·  PUB 275 can be given during the face-to-face interview or by mail in the case of a telephone or other out-of-office interview.

 

NEW FOOD STAMP APPLICATIONS

 

Effective December 1, 2009 HSSs will provide the “Family Planning – PUB 275 brochure to the head of household or AR applying for FS (NAFS) benefits when the applicant household is determined ineligible to FS due to excess resources and includes a child under 18.

 

·  The HSS will narrate in CalWIN case comments that the FS head of household and/or AR received PUB 275 and has been granted as MCE.

 

·  PUB 275 can be given during the face-to-face interview or by mail in the case of a telephone or other out-of-office interview.

 

 

NOTE:  The HSS will take corrective action to implement MCE and issue lost benefits as soon as administratively feasible after discovering a NAFS household has been discontinued because of excess resources July 31, 2009, or has been denied on or after December 1, 2009.

 

 

 

 

CalWIN Impact

MCE cases will not be assigned a new aid code. 

 

·  HSSs will flag MCE cases by entering Special Indicator “Modified CE NAFS” in CalWIN.

 

·  The Automation section of Strategic Planning and Operational Support (SPOS) will extract a quarterly report from CalWIN for SPOS/Program to track compliance and be able to report to CDSS. 

 

·  CalWIN will not be programmed to disregard resources in the FSP.  Therefore, HSSs will follow BENDS #5041 to exclude resources of NAFS households determined to be MCE.

 

 

PUB 275 and Client Correspondence Impact

Family Planning – PUB 275

The English, Spanish and the following language versions of the PUB 275 have been uploaded in iWAY:

 

·  Cambodian

·  Laotian

·  Chinese

·  Russian

·  Hmong

·  Vietnamese

 

·  HSSs can also locate the brochure in the S:\ENTERPRISE\Food Stamp State\Other Languages State Forms folder.

 

·  Additional languages will be uploaded as soon as CDSS provides the translations.

 

CLIENT CORRESPONDENCE

HSSs will use current change/termination notices for MCE. 

 

However, the Project is reviewing current notices to determine if any changes or additional language is needed to cover all MCE situations (CR5041).

 

 

Quality Control (QC) and Assurance (QA)
Impact

MCE is a new program in which resources are excluded from a household’s FSP eligibility determination.  Therefore, HSSs must document that a household has been provided with the “Family Planning – PUB 275 brochure and granted as a MCE household.  No other special procedures are required for these cases.

 

·  MCE cases are subject to QC reviews.  QC and QA staff will review MCE cases using standard review procedures and will cite the appropriate error when the regulations cited in this material have not been followed.

 

·  There is no QC hold harmless period for variances (errors) cited due to the implementation of MCE.

 

 

MCE Questions & Answers

 

 

 

Question

Answer

Household Composition & Notice of Action

1

Which households will meet the definition of “families” for the purpose of qualifying for Modified Categorical Eligibility (MCE)?

 

Non-Assistance Food Stamp (NAFS) households (with children under 18) who would otherwise be eligible for FS except that the household would be resource ineligible.

 

2

Must a child be eligible to FS to qualify the household to MCE?

 

What if the only child is receiving SSI/SSP or is an ineligible non-citizen?

 

No, the child does not have to be eligible to FS to qualify the household to MCE. 

 

3

Does the fact that a household member is pregnant make the household a “family” for the purpose of granting MCE?

 

No, because there is not yet a child in the household.

 

4

A pregnant woman-only household can have cash aid in her last trimester.

 

Since the pregnant woman is being TANF funded (CW-like family), can she get MCE in her last trimester of pregnancy after giving her a TANF-funded brochure?

 

If she is receiving cash aid, she is already CE and is not eligible for MCE.  If she is not receiving cash aid, she does not meet the definition of a MCE household because she is not considered to have a child under 18 in the household.

 

5

Does the degree of relationship between the adult(s) and the child matter?

 

No, as long as they are purchasing and preparing food together.

 

6

Once a family has been provided with the TANF-funded brochure (PUB 275), does the family’s MCE status remain through future recertifications or break in aid?

 

Yes, as long as the household’s MCE status remains unchanged.   A PUB 275 only needs to be provided to households with children whose resources might make them ineligible for food stamp benefits only once.

 

7

If an only child turns 18, when will the HSS need to reevaluate eligibility based upon regular resource limits?

 

Eligibility for MCE must be reevaluated at recertification for all households.

 

8

What type of notice of action must be issued to MCE households?

 

The HSS must provide a change/termination notice with the appropriate language, as needed, on the notice to cover various situations.

(CalWIN update is pending)

 

9

A NAFS household consists of a 35 year old mother, and her 17 year old son.  The household has excess resources, but has been determined eligible under MCE.  The QR Payment Quarter is April/May/June.

 

On April 15, the 17-year-old leaves the home.

 

Since there is no longer MCE eligibility, when will the HSS discontinue the mother?

At the end of the current quarter or at the end of the current recertification period?

 

What would be the reason for termination and the notice of action?

 

What if this is a change reporting (CR) household?

 

Once the household is determined MCE, the determination continues until the end of the certification period. Therefore, the HSS will discontinue the mother at recertification if she is still exceeding the resource limits.

 

The reason for termination is that the household is no longer MCE, since the child left the home and excess resources apply.

 

Same regulation applies for CR households.

 

10

Once a family has been provided with the TANF-funded brochure (PUB 275), does the family’s MCE status remain through future breaks in aid?

 

Yes, as long as the household’s MCE status remains unchanged.  A PUB 275 only needs to be provided to households (with children under 18) whose resources might make them ineligible for food stamp benefits.

 

Reporting Requirements

11

Are clients expected to declare (in an application) and report on the QR 7 resource changes?

 

Reporting requirements are not changing with the implementation of

MCE.   Clients are expected to declare resources on the current application, at recertification, and on the QR 7.

 

12

When a household has MCE status (due to exclusion of excess resources) does the worker have legal authority to send back a QR 7 as ‘incomplete’ if the family does not answer the resource questions?

 

Yes, the QR 7 must be completed in its entirety, including the resources question.

 

Categorical Eligibility

13

Do MCE regulations impact the current FS regulations regarding resources for current CE households receiving cash aid?

 

MCE regulations do not impact current FS regulations regarding resources for current CE households receiving cash aid.

 

Expedited Services

14

If a family with a child under 18 has excess resources but is determined MCE eligible, are resources considered in determining entitlement to expedited service?

 

MCE resource exemptions impact program eligibility only.  There are no changes to the expedited service process.  Therefore, the resources of an MCE household would be used when determining entitlement to expedited service in accordance with FSPG 63-105.

 

Applicants who Received MCE in Another County

15

Case consists of a mother and child eligible for MCE in County ‘A’ in August 2009.

(County ‘A’ implemented MCE for existing recipients and new applicants in July 2009).

 

Mother and child move to County ‘B’ in September 2009 and apply for food stamps with resources still over the limit.  County ‘B’ has not yet implemented MCE for new applicants and does not plan on doing so until January 1, 2010.

 

Is the household ineligible for Food Stamps in County ‘B’?

 

Yes, provided the household has excess resources, the household is ineligible for food stamp benefits in County ‘B’.

 

Transitional Food Stamps (TFS)

16

A CalWORKs household is discontinued due to excess resources.

 

Does the household roll over to TFS and reapply as MCE at the end of the TFS period, or should the household be evaluated for MCE at the time of CalWORKs discontinuance?

 

The household will be transferred to TFS after the CalWORKs case discontinues.

 

The household could reapply during the TFS period if the household wants to receive regular FS benefits.

 

 

FSPG
Changes/ Updates

 

The FSPG has been updated as follows:

 

 

FSPG Section

Title

Changes/Updates

63-119.4

Categorically Eligible (CE)

Definition

Added MCE information and hyperlink to the new MCE section 63-119.9.

63-119.9

Modified Categorical Eligibility (MCE)

Added new section describing MCE.

63-201.1

Resource Eligibility Standards

Added MCE information and definition.

63-201.2

Maximum Allowable Resources

Added NOTE to indicate resource limits do not apply to MCE households.

63-203.19

Excluding Resources Under Modified Categorical Eligibility (MCE)

New section “Excluding Resources under Modified categorical Eligibility (MCE)” to exclude resources of MCE households.

 

63-206.5

Treatment of Resources of Households with Sponsored Noncitizens

Added note to provide PUB 275 and grant MCE to households with children under 18 exceeding resource limits due to sponsor deeming regulations.

63-206.7

Treatment of Resources of QR Households

·  Added bullet to evaluate for MCE when the household reports resources exceeding the limit on the QR 7.

·  Modified second example to include an MCE situation.

63-275.7

Resource Eligibility

·  Added bullet to evaluate for MCE when the household reports resources exceeding the limit on the QR 7.

 

·  Modified second example to clarify the household does not include a child under 18 and cannot be granted MCE status.

63-302.4

Categorically Eligible Food Stamp Households (CE)

·  Changed block title to “Categorical Eligible Food Stamp (CE) and MCE Households.

 

·  Added MCE information and link to the new MCE section FSPG 63-119.9.

 

 

      NOTE:  All FSPG updates have been highlighted in blue.

 

 

Assistant Deputy Director

(Original signed 07/01/09)

 

 

 

JAYE YOSHONIS

Assistant Deputy Director

Self-Sufficiency Programs

Strategic Planning & Operational Support

 

 

OA