COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
P.O. BOX 2120
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120
SUPTS. MEMO NO. 6
May 20, 2005
Jo Lynne DeMary
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Verification of Households Eligibility for Free or Reduced Price Meals in the School Nutrition Programs - Reauthorization 2004
Public Law 108-265, the Child Nutrition and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act of 2004, amended requirements for verification of households eligibility for free or reduced price meals in schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program. The amended provisions are effective July 1, 2005.
Please note, the law changes the date for determination of the verification sample from October 31 to October 1. The number of approved applications on file on October 1 will be the number used to calculate the required sample size. The deadline for completion of verification activities has been changed from December 15 to November 15. The deadline for reporting the results of verification to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will remain January 15.
Under the new law, the basic sample size for verification is 3 percent of all approved applications, or 3,000 applications, whichever is less. A new provision of the law requires school divisions to draw the sample from error-prone applications. Error-prone applications are those that report total household income within $100 monthly, or $1200 annually, of the income eligibility guidelines for free or reduced price meals for the applicable household size.
In lieu of the basic sample size, school divisions may be eligible to use an alternate sample size if they meet the following conditions:
1. The divisions non-response rate for verification in the preceding year was less than 20 percent; or
2. For school divisions with more than 20,000 students approved by application (excluding direct certification) as of October 1:
a. The verification non-response rate for the preceding school year was at least 10 percent below the non-response rate for the second preceding year; or
b. For 2005-2006 school year only, the division attempts to verify all applications selected for verification using food stamp or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) records.
The alternate sample sizes set forth in the law are
the same options that were in effect prior to the July 1, 2005, changes. If interested, school divisions should
contact the VDOE School Nutrition Programs (SNP) office to determine if they
meet the conditions established for alternate sample size.
Prior to conducting verification, school divisions are required to conduct a confirmation review of all applications selected for verification. The purpose of the review is to check the accuracy of the initial free or reduced price eligibility determination. An individual other than the one who made the initial eligibility determination must do the confirmation review.
If the initial determination is found to be incorrect, the school division must correct the household eligibility status and notify the household of the change in eligibility using the notice of adverse action letter. A sample notice of adverse action letter will be included in the prototype verification forms available on the School Nutrition Programs Web system (SNPWeb). If the correction results in the application no longer being eligible for verification it must be replaced by another eligible application (i.e., a correctly approved application within $100 of the monthly eligibility limit). Upon completing the confirmation review, the division should proceed with verification of applications with confirmed eligibility and those with corrected eligibility that remain eligible for benefits.
A new provision in the law permits school divisions to decline to verify 5 percent, or less, of the selected applications in the sample. Any application that is removed from the sample pursuant to this provision must be replaced with a similar application (i.e., a correctly approved application within $100 of the monthly eligibility limit). School divisions may consider factors such as communication difficulties and household stability when declining to verify selected applications.
Households selected for verification must be provided with a telephone number that they may call for assistance. This phone number must be provided to the household in the notice of selection letter. A sample notice of selection letter will be included in the prototype verification forms on SNPWeb. The number must permit the call to be free for all households in the division. The division may provide different phone numbers for each local calling area within the school division or they may establish a toll-free number for households outside of the local calling area.
The notice of selection letter must include the name of a school official(s) who can serve as a point of contact for the household to either directly assist them or to refer the caller to a specific person for help.
There is now a formal follow-up requirement for households that fail to respond to the initial request for verification information. At least one attempt, through mail, by telephone, or personal contact must be made. Written documentation of all follow-up attempts and the results must be kept. If the households eligibility status cannot be verified after the follow-up attempt(s), the households benefits must be terminated through a notice of adverse action letter.
Questions regarding verification may be directed to the school nutrition program specialist assigned to the division, or Lynne Fellin, acting director, at (804) 225-2074.