Income Eligibility Guidance
|DATE:||April 26, 2013|
|POLICY MEMO:||WIC Policy Memorandum #2013-3|
|SUBJECT:||Income Eligibility Guidance|
Special Nutrition Programs
WIC State Agency Directors
The purpose of this policy memorandum is to provide clarification regarding the income eligibility determination and documentation requirements necessary for participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
This guidance represents the first chapter of what will eventually be a Certification/Eligibility Handbook that encompasses various aspects of WIC certification, including, but not limited to: income eligibility guidelines, definition of income (including military income), determination of family/household income and adjunctive/automatic income eligibility.
Further, this guidance revises and consolidates existing Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Instruction 803-3: Income Eligibility and WIC Policy Memorandum 99-4: Strengthening Integrity in the WIC Certification Process. It also clarifies the number of temporary certifications allowed when an applicant lacks necessary income documentation.
Federal WIC program regulations at 7 CFR Part 246.7 establish the guidelines for the WIC certification process including income eligibility determination in accordance with WIC’s authorizing legislation, the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 USC 1771), as amended.
In April 2012, the second National Survey of WIC Participants (NSWP-II) was published. The NSWP-II noted that for some items there is uniformity in state agency policy regarding what items should count as income, but that there is less consistency among state agencies for counting other types of income such as medical, rental, and energy assistance. It also noted that there were variations in state agencies’ definitions of “current” income. The NSWP-II reported that most agencies use current income as opposed to income from the previous year.
In February 2013, The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report, WIC program: Improved Oversight of Income Eligibility Determination Needed. The report concluded that state and local WIC agencies have considerable discretion in terms of what to include or exclude as income, the time period which that income reflects, and the size of the family used to calculate household income.
To provide more consistency and accountability, this guidance reiterates language in the FNS Instruction that encourages WIC state agencies to define “current income” to refer to all income received by the household during the month (30 days) prior to the date the application for WIC benefits is made, and requires justification of any other definition in the state Plan. If the income assessment is being done prospectively (e.g., the sole support of that family has just been laid off but has been authorized to receive unemployment benefits for the next six months), “current” refers to income that will be available to the family in the next 30 days.
In a case where an applicant lacks necessary income documentation at a certification appointment and the local agency issues a temporary (up to 30 days) certification, this guidance stipulates that under no circumstance may a second, subsequent 30-day certification period be used if the applicant fails to provide the required documentation of income before the temporary certification period expires.
WIC state agencies must implement this updated guidance as of the beginning of fiscal year (FY) 2014 (Oct. 1, 2013). Any modifications that must be made to current procedures in order to comply with this guidance must be included in the FY 2014 state plans, which are due to FNS Regional Offices by Aug. 15, 2013.
State agencies should direct any questions regarding this memorandum to their respective FNS regional offices.
DEBRA R. WHITFORD
Supplemental Food Programs Division
The contents of this guidance document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.