Chapter 2: Certification
The CSFP program serves seniors age 60 or older. Prior to a certification appointment, the Local Agency (LA) shall instruct each applicant to bring documentation proof of identity and age, residency, and income. For families with multiple applicants, one application should be made for each applicant. [CSFP Application, Exhibit A-2
Each applicant who applies to receive CSFP benefits will be certified in the following manner:
- The applicant must complete the CSFP Application. [CSFP Application, Exhibit A-2]. Applicants who have difficulty completing application or other CSFP forms because of language barriers, illiteracy, or other difficulties must be allowed to complete them with LA staff assistance. If applicants have not completed the application before the appointment time, they should be given the opportunity and wait for the next available opening that day or be rescheduled.
- Review the application and check for prior or current participation in CSFP. Notify the applicant that an individual is prohibited from participating in CSFP in more than one location. [See Dual Participation Section V below].
- Insure applicants’ race is indicated on the application for the required annual USDA Racial/Ethnic statistical report. If applicant does not make a selection, the LA may make a visual assessment and choose a selection on their behalf.
- Document proof of identity and age. [See Participant Identity and Age, Section VII].
- Document proof of residency. [See Residency, Section VIII].
- Document proof of income. [See Income Guidelines and Section IX].
- Determine final eligibility and notify participant in writing whether they are eligible, ineligible, or are on a waiting list. [See Processing Standards, Section III and Waiting Lists, Section IV].
- Document referrals to other agencies [See Program Referrals, Section X]
- Provide nutrition education. [See Nutrition Education, Chapter 4]
- Have LA staff sign, or initial, and date the Application and/or fill out Initial Visit Date Log/Waiting List [Exhibit A-16]
- Have the applicant sign and date the Rights and Responsibilities statement at certification and at each subsequent certification. The applicant must read, or be read to, the rights and responsibilities statement. When a significant portion of the population serviced by the LA is composed of non-English or limited English speaking persons, the sentences shall be stated to such persons in a language they understand. See Spanish version.
- Homebound elderly may mail the CSFP application, copies of income, identity and residency documentation and the proxy form [Exhibit A-6] to the LA. The proxy form authorizes another party to pick up the foods and is filed in the participant file when completed. The proxy authorization is good for one year and will need to be re-authorized at the time of the participants annual paper certification. [See Section VI Certification Period].
II. Initial Visit Date
Each LA shall keep records of each CSFP applicant’s initial visit date in the client file. These records shall include the applicant's name, address, phone number (if available) and date of visit to request CSFP. The “initial visit date” is the first day a person physically appears at the CSFP certification site during office hours to request CSFP benefits. The homebound elderly may mail their application and supporting documentation. Their initial visit date would be the date of approval. [See CSFP Applicant’s Initial Visit Date Log/Waiting List Exhibit A-16].
III. Processing Standards
A LA shall process applications for program benefits within specific time frames when not at maximum caseload:
- Notify the applicant of his or her eligibility or ineligibility within 10 days of the applicant’s initial visit to apply for benefits. The 10 day time limit does not apply to telephone inquiries concerning program participation. [See Notification Letter Exhibit A-4]
- The LA shall provide each participant with an explanation of the food delivery system, including how often he or she can receive food, and the quantity for which they are eligible.
- An applicant who is determined to be eligible for CSFP shall receive a food package within 30 days of the initial visit to apply for benefits.
- If an applicant is missing documentation, a one time benefit can be issued until the documentation is brought in. After 60 days the applicant is notified of their discontinuance with the program for lack of proof. [See Discontinuance Ch. 10].
IV. Waiting Lists
When maximum caseload has been met, the LA shall keep a waiting list. Before implementing a waiting list, the LA shall contact DCF for prior approval. [See CSFP Applicant’s Initial Visit Date Log/Waiting List Exhibit A-16]
- The LA shall notify applicants of their placement on a waiting list within 10 days of the initial visit. [See Notification Letter Exhibit A-4]
- A waiting list such as the CSFP Applicant’s Initial Visit Date Log/Waiting List Exhibit A-16 may be used. The waiting list must be organized by the date of application. The waiting list must include all information listed on Exhibit A-16.
- When a caseload opening becomes available, the LA shall contact the person with the earliest date of application. The LA shall record on the waiting list, the date the contact was made to the individual. The individual must return to the LA for an eligibility screening.
- Participants on a wait list shall utilize one-month certification period timeframes until such time as a permanent caseload spot becomes available. Only then will their certification period change to a one-year timeframe. (See VI. Certification Period below.)
V. Dual Participation
Dual participation for elderly will be monitored and tracked at each LA verifying current address during each re-certification. If a participant resides in a county where another LA is administering CSFP, contact shall be made and a check done for dual participation between the two distributing agencies. This process will be monitored during DCF Management Evaluations.
When an individual is found to be receiving food from more than one location per month, the LA shall immediately disqualify the participant from one of the locations with no prior warning. When an individual is determined to be participating at more than one location and fraud is involved, the participant may be disqualified from receiving CSFP. [See Disqualification, Ch. 10].
If disqualification from CSFP will result in a serious health risk to the participant, then DCF may waive disqualification from CSFP.
When termination results because of dual participation and fraudulent participation, the LA shall send the participant a termination letter and notify the individual of his or her right to a fair hearing. [See Termination Ch. 10].
VI. Certification Period
The certification period starts the date the client is determined eligible. All participants are eligible to receive benefits through the end of the month in which their certification period ends. New certification periods are for three-year time frames for eligible clients. The LA shall notify each participant at least 15 days before the expiration of each certification period, of the participant’s need to re-certify. This notification shall be in writing by using a standardized letter. The LA shall keep a copy of the notification on file at the LA. [See Notification Letter Exhibit A-4].
Three-year certification periods may be utilized however the LA must annually: 1) verify the address and continued interest of the participant; and 2) Have sufficient reason to determine that the participant still meets the income eligibility standards, which may include a determination that the participant has a fixed income.
Once the application is approved, new certification periods must be implemented immediately for new CSFP applicants and on a rolling basis for current participants on the date that their current certification period expires, provided that such participants continue to meet all other eligibility requirements outlined in 7 CFR 247.9.
VII. Participant Identity and Age
The LA shall review and document the applicant’s identity and age at the initial certification visit. The LA shall not issue benefits until verification of both identity and age has been seen. Acceptable sources of verification include a state-issued birth certificate, medical card (with birth date indicated), or drivers license.
A social security card IS NOT an acceptable source of verification. Documentation of verification may be a copy of the information provided, or a notation on the application indicating what verification was seen.
If verification of identity or age is not available, (i.e., homeless), have applicant fill out the No Proof Form, Exhibit A-5
as proof. This information needs to be documented on the CSFP application.
Any person residing in the LA service area is potentially eligible for CSFP services. At certification it is necessary to obtain verification of residency using letters, rent receipts, utility bills, and/or documentation as established and deemed adequate by LA policy. Documentation of the verification may be a copy of the information provided, or a notation on the application indicating what verification was seen.
The LA may certify applicants when no proof of residency exists (such as when an applicant or responsible party is a victim of theft, loss, or disaster, a homeless individual, or a migrant farm worker.) In these cases, the LA shall require the applicant to confirm his or her residency in writing using the No Proof Form, Exhibit A-5.
The LA may issue one month of food if the applicant forgets to bring verification to the certification appointment. The LA must require the necessary documentation at the next food pick-up or benefits must be discontinued. [See Discontinuance Ch. 10]
IX. Income Guidelines
A. Income Verification
The LA shall verify the income of all CSFP applicants:
- Suggested documentation includes: a current pay check stub, pay envelope showing total gross pay, letter from employer, or tax return. Documentation of verification may be a copy of the information provided or a notation on the application indicating what verification was seen.
- The LA may issue one month of food if the applicant forgets to bring verification to the certification appointment. The LA must require the necessary documentation at the next food pick-up or benefits will not continue. Agencies should document the attempt to verify the income on the Application.
- A homeless applicant may not be able to provide the written documentation for income verification. If a homeless applicant has income but no verification, a self-declaration of income can be accepted. [See No Proof Form, Exhibit A-5].
- If a participant brings to the LA’s attention or the LA has reason to believe that the participant’s income has changed during a certification period, income must be reassessed. If the participant is found to be over income, the LA must discontinue the participant from CSFP. [See Discontinuance, Ch. 10].
- Applicants declaring a zero income should be prompted to describe in detail their living circumstances and how they obtain basic living necessities such as food, shelter, medical care and clothing. In some instances, family members provide financial support, while in others the participant may be providing services to a larger household unit in exchange for lodging and food. It is imperative that the size of the household and the income associated with that household be accurately determined.
B. Household Size Determination
A household is made up of a person or group of persons, related or non-related, who live together and whose income is used to support the persons living in the household and who purchase and prepare meals together.
It is possible for two separate households to reside under one roof. To establish a second household, however, each household must purchase and prepare meals separately.
A foster child is counted as a household of one (1). When determining the number of people in the household in which a foster child resides, do not include or count other members who reside in the same household.
C. Determine Household Income
Income is defined as total gross income of all household members in the economic unit, excluding a foster child, before any deductions and any amount received or withdrawn from any source, including savings. (The only exception to using gross income is using net income for farm and other types of self-employment.)
The prior months gross income is generally used to determine eligibility. Income during the past 12 months can also be considered if it more accurately reflects the household's income. Examples would be teachers, construction workers, and individual’s temporarily unemployed and not receiving benefits from employers.
When more than one type of income is reported, each amount must be reported separately on the application and appropriate documentation provided for each. One example would be households reporting self-employment (i.e., farming) and wages. Current farm income is based on the projections of current net income and may be documented using the prior year’s tax return. Wages are based on the prior month’s income and are documented by a check stub. If there is an anticipated business loss, this amount may not be deducted from the wages reported. If self-employed income is negative, it must be listed as zero income.
For elderly the income guidelines are 130% of the Federal Poverty Level.
The income guidelines are public information. If a request is made to see the guidelines, courteously provide the information for inspection. If a copy is requested the LA may charge the normal per page copy rate charged for any other information.
E. Income includes:
- Monetary compensation for services including wages, salary, commissions, or fees.
- Net income from farm and non-farm self-employment.
Farm Income - Net income for self-employed farmers is figured by subtracting the farmer's operating expenses from the gross receipts. Federal or state income tax forms for the most recent tax year would provide the most reliable documentation of depreciation amounts. If this is not available, calculate the net income of the farm. A negative net income is recorded as “0" for the family member who is self employed.
Participant’s farm gross receipts include but are not limited: to the value of all products the household sells; money the household receives from others for renting farmland, buildings or equipment; and incidental receipts from selling items such as wood, sand, and gravel.
Farmer's operating expenses include cost of feed, fertilizer, seed and other farming supplies; cash wages paid to farmhands; depreciation charges; cash rent; interest on farm mortgages; farm building repairs; and farm taxes (but not State and Federal income taxes). The value of fuel, food or other farm products consumed by the family is not included as an operating expense. Before accepting depreciation charges as operating expenses, documentation of such charges should be required.
Other Self-Employment Income - Self-employed persons may use last year's income as a base to project their current year's net income, unless their current monthly income provides a more accurate measure.
Self-employed persons are credited with net income rather than gross income. Net income for self-employment is figured by subtracting business expenses from gross receipts.
Gross receipts include the total value of goods sold or services rendered by the business. Deductible business expenses include cost of goods purchased, rent, heat, utilities, depreciation charges, wages and salaries paid, and business taxes (not personal Federal, State or local income taxes). Before accepting depreciation charges as operating expenses, documentation of such charges should be required. Federal or State Income tax forms for the most recent tax year would provide the most reliable documentation of depreciation amounts.
- Military Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowances (FSSA), as indicated on the service member’s Leave and Earnings statement, which is the standard wage information used by the military.
- Gross Social Security payment amounts.
- Dividends or interest on savings or bonds, income from estates or trusts, or net rental income.
- Public assistance or welfare payments.
- Unemployment or Worker's Compensation.
- Government civilian employee or military retirement or pensions or veterans' payments.
- Private pensions or annuities.
- Alimony or child support payments actually received.
- Regular cash contributions from persons not living in the economic unit or household.
- Net royalties.
- Other cash income including but not limited to cash amount received or withdrawn from any source including savings, investments, trust accounts, and other resources that are readily available to the family.
- Sale of property, house, car, or other.
- Cash lottery winnings.
- Mutual funds.
Professional judgment is to be used in determining what will not be included as income. If questions arise, please contact DCF.
X. Program Referrals
Each participant shall be advised of the importance of participating in on-going routine health care, the types of health services available and how the participant may obtain these services.
On at least one occasion and preferably at the time of certification, each LA serving elderly participants is also required to provide written information on the following programs to each participant or responsible party:
- Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI); and
- Medicaid, including medical assistance provided to qualified Medicare beneficiaries.
Call DCF for the necessary information.
The State and Local agencies will comply with the following restrictions:
- Participants will not be required to make any payments in money, materials or services for, or in connection with the receipt of supplemental foods.
- Participants will not be solicited in connection with the receipt of supplemental foods for voluntary cash contributions for any purpose.
- Distribution of supplemental foods will not be used as a means for furthering the political interest of any person or party.
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