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USDA grants 3 Month Extension on SNAP Utility Allowance, NO reduction in benefits!!

Dear Food SNAP Coalition members:

We have EXCELLENT news! USDA Food and Nutrition Service has agreed to a three month extension allowing state agencies to continue food stamp/SNAP benefits without reducing the Standard Utility Allowance. Below is the email sent to the New England states from the FNS Regional Office to the New England state SNAP agencies including DTA. Bottom line, FNS has rescinded earlier instructions to states to reduce the standard utility allowance effective 10/1/2010 - which reduction would have reduced SNAP benefits for over 100,000 households in Massachusetts (mostly elders and persons with disaibities) and thousands more across the country.

Thanks to all of you who weighed in on this issue. SPECIAL thanks to Senator John Kerry and Congressman Jim McGovern for weighing in with USDA headquarters; and to Governor Patrick, DTA Commissioner Kehoe and SNAP Director Phouc Cao for their continued efforts to protect SNAP benefits and expand SNAP eligibility for low income Massachusetts residents.

MLRI will continue working with our New England anti-hunger counterparts to hopefully further delay any SNAP reduction in January 2011 (scheduled for the height of heating season no less...) So, stay tuned! For now, a reprieve.


From: Ferris, MaryAnn
Sent: Friday, October 01, 2010 6:19 AM

Subject: FW: SUA 3 Month Extension Policy


NERO State Agencies,


FNS recognizes the impact on SNAP benefits resulting from drastically fluctuating energy prices. SNAP regulations at 273.9(d)(6) require States to adjust SUAs annually to reflect changes in energy costs. On August 18, 2009, FNS issued a one-time blanket waiver that permitted States to waive the required annual update of their SUAs for FY 2010 if an annual update would result in a decrease to households whose circumstances remain constant. Because energy prices have remained low, FNS extended the waiver on August 6, 2010 to those States that did not implement the biennial option offered in the August 18, 2009 waiver.

FNS has decided to amend the August 6, 2010 waiver as follows:


· States that applied the biennial waiver for FY 2010 may utilize a three month extension to their SUA adjustment. This allows a State agency to maintain its current SUA for 3 additional months. For example, a State that was scheduled to implement a decreased SUA amount for FY 2011 on October 1, 2010 may keep its current deduction amount through December 1, 2010. (This means adjustment must be made for January 1st, 2011.)


· The 3 month extension is an option for State agencies and is not mandatory. States should notify their regional office if they choose to implement this extension.


· The extension is only available to those States that implemented the August 18, 2009 waiver.


· If a State chooses to exercise the 3 month extension but has already made a system change for FY 2011 that results in a decreased SUA amount, the State must provide a restoration of lost benefits consistent with Federal Regulations at 7 CFR 273.17.


If you have additional questions, please contact me or Katie Blanchette



Mary A Ferris

Regional Director

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Food and Nutrition Service

Northeast Region