SNP Processing Applications

Local Education Agencies (LEAs) must provide household applications to families applying for free or reduced price meals or free milk benefits, unless the household has been directly certified. Applications provided to households must be accompanied by instructional materials similar to those included with the FNS prototype application. One household application is submitted for all children in the household who attend schools in the same LEA. The LEAs cannot require a household to submit multiple applications.

LEAs are encouraged to use the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) prototype application to support access to school meals. When processing applications, all applications must be complete. Any application that is missing required information, contains inconsistent information, or is unclear will be considered an incomplete application and may not be processed.  Please note that different information is required depending on the type of application.

The prototype application complies with the federal requirements. The sample application and instructions are located here: Prototype Household Application

Eligibility is for the current school year and up to 30 operating days into the next school year. This does not apply to incorrect or verified applications.

Approval or Denial of Program Applications

Applications must be reviewed and an eligibility determination made within 10 working days of the receipt of the application. Households must be notified of their eligibility status. Approvals may be notified in writing or verbally.

Households with children who are denied benefits must be provided with written notification of the denial. The notification must advise the household of:

  • Reason for denial
  • Right to appeal
  • Instructions on how to appeal
  • Their ability to re-apply at any time during the school year

It is a good idea to have a second person look at the denied applications to verify they are actually denials so students are not denied benefits.

Duration of Eligibility

Eligibility is for the current school year and up to 30 operating days into the next school year. This does not apply to incorrect or verified applications.

Effective Eligibility Date

The determination, notification, and implementation of free or reduced price meal status must be made within 10 operating days from the date the application is received by the LEA. If the LEA chooses, it could establish the date of submission of an application as the effective date of eligibility, rather than the date the official approves it.  Federal law (SP 11-2014) clarifies the flexibility on eligibility determinations made through the application process. LEAs have two options for exercising this flexibility: the effective date of submission of the application or the date the official approves the application.
If the LEA is using the date of submission for eligibly determination, the date must be written or stamped on the application. The LEA must refund any money paid by or on behalf of the child for a reimbursable meal prior to the eligibility determination, including forgiving accrued debt. The LEA can use this flexibility when processing household income applications, as well as when waiting for documentation of other source categorical eligibility (e.g., for homeless or migrant children) indicated on a household application. The LEA exercising this flexibility must do so for all students in all participating schools and programs.

The LEA must refund any money paid by or on behalf of the student for reimbursable meals during the period from the free meal eligibility effective date through the date the direct certification is actually implemented at the LEA, including forgiving accrued debt, for any meals or milk adjusted to free due to the change in effective date. The LEA can only claim those meals or milk at the free reimbursement rate if the student is given a refund or the debt is discharged. If the LEA elects to exercise the flexibility for determining the eligibility effective date for direct certified students, the LEA must do so for all direct certification methods including automated data matching, lists, or other forms of documentation. Each method is described in detail in SP 51-2014.

Foster Children

Required information to determine eligibility:

  • Name of the foster child
  • Indication of a child’s foster care status (e.g., an appropriate box is checked)
  • Signature of an adult household member       
Households that Fail to Apply

School officials may complete an application for a child known to be eligible if the household fails to apply. The school official must complete an application on behalf of the child based on the information known to the school official and the household must be notified.

Incomplete Applications

Households that submit an incomplete application cannot be approved. If required information is missing, the LEA determining official may do the following to get the required information:

  • Return the application to the household
  • Contact the child’s parent or guardian either by phone or in writing, including email
  • Every reasonable effort should be made to obtain the missing information prior to denying the application
Independent Review of Applications

LEAs demonstrating high levels of administrative error associated with certification and benefit issuance are required to conduct a second review of applications. High levels are 10% or more errors on the SFA-2 from an Administrative Review.

Mixed Application (some children are “Other Source Categorically Eligible” and some are not)

Required information to determine income eligibility:

  • Names of all household members
  • Amount and source of current income for each member and the frequency of income
  • A checked box indicating the other source categorical eligibility status of a child.
    • For a foster child, list any personal income made available to the foster child, or earned by the foster child, as appropriate (it is optional for the household to include foster children residing in their care)
  • Signature of an adult household member
  • Last four digits of the social security number of the adult household member who signs the application or an indication that the household member does not have one
Other Source Categorical Eligibility (except foster children)

Required information to determine income eligibility:

  • Names of children for whom the application is made
  • Indication of the child’s categorical eligibility status (e.g., an appropriate box is checked)
  • Signature of an adult household member

The household indication of another source categorically eligible status must be confirmed prior to certification for free or reduced meals by documenting the status with appropriate officials for each program.

Processing Assistance Programs Applications

Required information to determine income eligibility:

  • Names of the children for whom the application is made
  • SNAP, FDPIR, or TANF case number, or other FDPIR identifier, for the child(ren) or for any household member listed on the application (the case number should be validated by reviewing direct certification data or by contacting local assistance program)
  • Signature of an adult household member
Processing Income Applications

Required information to determine income eligibility:

  • Names of all household members
  • Amount and source of current gross income for each member and the frequency of the income
  • Signature of an adult household member
  • Last four digits of the social security number of the adult household member who signs the application or an indication that the household member does not have one
  • A household with any member income field left blank is a positive indication that there is no income.
  • When no income is provided for any of the adult household members, the application is still considered complete.

Households must provide their income for the current month, for the projected month of completed application, or for the month prior to application. When processing applications, the household size and household income are used to determine benefits as compared to the Income Eligibility Guidelines (IEGs). Income can be received from a variety of different sources and frequencies.

  • No Conversion
    • If there is only one source of income, or if all sources are received in the same frequency, no conversion is required. Total all income and match income with corresponding household size. Compare the un-rounded total to the appropriate IEG for annual income and household size.
  • Conversion
    • If there are multiple income sources with more than one frequency, annualize all income by multiplying:
      • Weekly income by 52
      • Bi-weekly income (every two weeks) by 26
      • Semi-monthly income (twice a month) by 24
      • Monthly income by 12
  • Compare the un-rounded total to the appropriate IEG for annual income and household size.
Residential Child Care Institutions (RCCI)

Each child residing in an RCCI is considered a household of one. An application must be completed for each child unless the RCCI uses an eligibility documentation sheet for all children residing in the RCCI. The documentation sheet must be signed by an appropriate official and must include:

  • Child’s name;
  • Any personal income received by the child;
  • Child’s date of birth;
  • Date of admission;
  • Date of release;
  • Official’s title and contact information.

Children attending but not residing in an RCCI (commonly referred to as “day students”) are not considered a household of one, and are instead considered members of their household. Their eligibility is determined using a household application or through direct certification.

Recordkeeping

Approved applications:

  • Indicate approval date
  • Indicate the level of benefit
  • Sign or initial the application

Denied applications:

  • Indicate the denial date
  • Indicate the reason for denial
  • Indicate the date the denial notification was sent
  • Sign or initial the application

Changes during the school year:

  • Note the change
  • Write the date of the change on the application
  • Implement the change by updating rosters or other methods used at the point of sale, if necessary

All applications, including denied and inactive, must be kept on file for a minimum of 3 years after the final claim is submitted for the fiscal year to which they pertain.

Timeline

The LEA cannot send letters home or accept or process applications before July 1 of each school year.

For more information on processing applications, review the Eligibility Manual for School Meals.