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111. Recent policy developments and other changes in the works

The Food Stamp Program is a program on the move. A substantial number of policy changes are on the way. Some have been approved, while others should be resolved very soon. In order to keep this Guide current, this page highlights recent developments that have yet to be implemented but may be of interest to California advocates:

Recent Federal policy changes in the Farm Bill

There were a number of significant food stamp changes passed in the Farm Bill that are effective October 1, 2008. Those changes that affect this Guide include:

  • Combat pay: Special pay received by service members deployed in combat zone is excluded from countable income. (See ACL 05-04 for prior combat pay instructions) 
  • Name change: The new name of the Food Stamp Program is Supplemental Nutrition Program or “SNAP.”
  • Standard deduction: The minimum standard deduction for households with one to three members is raised to $144 and will be indexed to inflation in subsequent years.
  • Dependent care deduction: There will no longer be a cap on the dependent care deduction. This is a very significant policy change.
  • Asset limits: The Food Stamp Program’s asset limits are now adjusted for annual inflation.
  • Retirement accounts: All tax-preferred retirement accounts, such as IRAs, are excluded from countable resources. See MPP § 63-502.
  • Education accounts: All tax-preferred education accounts, such as 529s, are excluded from countable resources.
  • Minimum benefit: The minimum benefit for one and two person households is raised to 8% of the Thrifty Food Plan. Previously, the amount was $10. The new amount is estimated to be $14 in 2008-09.
  • EBT: Allows states to store EBT benefits “off-line” if the household has not accessed the account for six months.
  • Telephonic signature: States are given the option of telephonic signatures. Implemented via ACIN I-60-13.
  • Major systems failures: If USDA determines that a major systems failure (such as a failed computer) has occurred, states may be prohibited from collecting overpayments.
  • New disqualification: Individuals can be disqualified for intentionally selling food that was purchased using food stamp benefits.
  • For additional changes and more details, visit Food Assistance at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Recent California policy developments

  • Clarification of the indigency exemption to sponsor deeming. CDSS issued ACL 11-06 to implement an FNS correction to state policy. Counties must now determine indigency based on the actual income the immigrant receives, and cannot request that the immigrant get the sponsor’s income and resource information first. This will prevent denials of the exemption, and exclusions of abandoned/undersupported immigrants, when the sponsor does not provide his/her information.
  • Modified Categorical Eligibility (MCE): No resource limits for households receiving a PUB 275 family planning pamphlet. The State legislature approved this for all households, and CDSS is rolling it out to the different populations in stages. In July 2009, CDSS granted MCE to households with minor children (i.e. those who would otherwise be on CalWORKs, but for their resources). In February 2011, CDSS will include households in which one or more members are aged or disabled. CDSS is expected to reach the final group, the “ABAWDS’ (those not aged/disabled and without minor children) later in the year.
  • Transitional Food Stamps (TFS) When Household Member Is Approved For Benefits In Another Food Stamp Household: The California Department of Social Services issued ACL 08-22 on June 23, 2008, to correct a policy the Food and Nutrition Service said violated the law. Effective September 1, 2008, when a TFS household member leaves for another Food Stamps household, the county must remove both the individual from the benefit amount and the individual’s income for purposes of calculating the TFS benefits.
  • Waiver of the face-to-face interview at recertification: The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) on May 17, 2007 was approved for a waiver of the face-to-face interview at recertification by the USDA, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Regulations to implement were submitted. However, final regulations have not been issued.  Instruction on the waiver were done via ACL 08-32.  A face-to-face interview must still be conducted at recertification if 1) requested by the household or the household’s authorized representative, or 2) when the county determines it is necessary to verify conditions of eligibility.  Id. 
  • Waiver of the face-to-face interview at application: CDSS permits counties to waive the face to face interview at application and recertification, without regard to hardship.  See ACL 09-62.
  • Removal of the asset test for families with children: State Legislation to remove the asset test for many households was largely successful. Households with children will no longer be subject to the resource test. Counties are currently in the process of implementing this policy.Counties have the option to implement before January 1, 2010 but all counties must implement by January 1, 2010.

This page will continue to be updated with policy developments affecting the content of this Guide.