(a) Coverage of operating guidelines. State agencies shall prepare and provide to staff responsible for administering the Program written operating procedures. In those States which have State regulations that outline these Operating Procedures, these are equivalent to Operating Guidelines. Other examples of Operating Guidelines are manuals, instructions, directives or transmittal memos. The following categories shall be included in the Operating Guidelines:
(1) Certification of households, including but not limited to:
(i) Application processing;
(ii) Nonfinancial eligibility standards;
(iii) Financial criteria and the eligibility determination;
(iv) Actions resulting from eligibility determinations;
(v) Determining eligibility of special situation households as specified in § 273.11;
(vi) Additional certification functions such as processing changes during certification periods and reporting requirements for households;
(vii) Lost benefits/claims against households;
(viii) Fair/fraud hearings;
(ix) A list of Federal and State energy assistance programs that qualify for the resource and income exclusions discussed in §§ 273.8(e)(14) and 273.9(c)(11) and how these payments are identified as being eligible for the exemption;
(x) Work registration and employment and training requirements.
(2) Issuance, accountability, and reconciliation;
(3) The Performance Reporting System, including instructions or directives for conducting quality control and management evaluation reviews and the quality control sample plan;
(4) A description of the training program, including a listing of the organizational component which conducts training, to whom and how often training is provided;
(5) The fair/fraud hearing procedures if not included in the Certification Handbook.
(6) The consultation process (where applicable) with the tribal organization of an Indian reservation about the State Plan of Operation and Operating Guidelines in terms of the special needs of members of the tribe and the method to be used for incorporating the comments from the tribal organization into the State Plan of Operations and Operating Guidelines.
(b) Submittal of operating guidelines and forms.
(1) State agencies shall develop the necessary forms, except the Application for Food Stamps, and other operating guidelines to implement the provisions of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 and regulations. In accordance with §§ 273.2(b) and 273.12(b)(1) State agencies shall use the FNS-designed Application for SNAP benefits or an FNS-approved deviation.
(2) State agencies shall submit their operating guidelines and forms and amendments to these materials to FNS for review and audit purposes simultaneous with distribution within the States.
(3) State agencies may request that FNS review and provide comments on their operating guidelines, forms and any amendments to these materials prior to distribution of the materials within the State.
(4) If deficiencies are discovered in a State agency's materials, FNS shall provide the State agency with written notification.
(1) The Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service or Deputy Administrator for Family Nutrition Programs may authorize waivers to deviate from specific regulatory provisions. Requests for waivers may be approved only in the following situations:
(i) The specific regulatory provision cannot be implemented due to extraordinary temporary situations such as a sudden increase in the caseload due to the loss of SSI cash-out status;
(ii) FNS determines that the waiver would result in a more effective and efficient administration of the program; or
(iii) Unique geographic or climatic conditions within a State preclude effective implementation of the specific regulatory provision and require an alternate procedure; for example, the use of fee agents in Alaska to perform many of the duties involved in the certification of households including conducting the interviews.
(2) FNS shall not approve requests for waivers when:
(i) The waiver would be inconsistent with the provisions of the Act; or
(ii) The waiver would result in material impairment of any statutory or regulatory rights of participants or potential participants.
(3) FNS shall approve waivers for a period not to exceed one year unless the waiver is for an on-going situation. If the waiver is requested for longer than a year, appropriate justification shall be required and FNS will determine if a longer period is warranted and if so, the duration of the waiver. Extensions may be granted provided that States submit appropriate justification as part of the State Plan of Operation.
(4) When submitting requests for waivers, State agencies shall provide compelling justification for the waiver in terms of how the waiver will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the administration of the Program. At a minimum, requests for waivers shall include but not necessarily be limited to:
(i) Reasons why the waiver is needed;
(ii) The portion of caseload or potential caseload which would be affected and the characteristics of the affected caseload such as geographic, urban, or rural concentration;
(iii) Anticipated impact on service to participants or potential participants who would be affected;
(iv) Anticipated time period for which the waiver is needed; and
(v) Thorough explanation of the proposed alternative provision to be used in lieu of the waived regulatory provision.
(5) Notwithstanding the preceding paragraphs, waivers may be granted by the Food and Nutrition Service as provided in section 5(f) of the Act. Waivers authorized by this paragraph are not subject to the public comment provisions of paragraph (d) of this section.
(6) Notwithstanding the preceding paragraphs, waivers may be granted by the Food and Nutrition Service as provided in section 6(c) of the Act. Waivers authorized by this paragraph are not subject to the public comment provisions of paragraph (d) of this section.
(d) Public comment. State agencies shall solicit public input and comment on overall Program operations as State laws require or as the individual State agency believes would be useful.
[Amdt. 156, 46 FR 6315, Jan. 21, 1981]