NY State Updates on Coronavirus and Operation of Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs
For the 2.2 million people living in NY households that struggle against hunger, COVID-19 presents unique challenges. As more schools, child care centers, and older adult meal sites close, additional families will lose access to the federal nutrition and food programs that improve their nutrition, health, and well-being.
Hunger Solutions New York is working to provide updates that can help schools, community organizations, and families mitigate the impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) on the food security of low-income people.
Have you or your family been affected by the Coronavirus outbreak?
You may be eligible for programs that help you buy food. Get information on applying for SNAP and WIC during the COVID-19 outbreak, and learn how we can help.
School Meals —updated 4/1/20
New York State Waiver of Area Eligibility for Summer Meals
USDA Policy Memo
New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) waiver request to maintain children’s access to meals during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was approved by USDA. Program sponsors should contact NYSED directly for further guidance.
Highlights from USDA Policy Memo:
- This waives the restrictions on site area eligibility requirements in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) Seamless Summer Option (SSO).
- This allows previously non-area eligible school food authorities and community organizations, in good standing, to serve meals to all children through SFSP sites and SSO during the emergency school closures associated with COVID-19.
- Typically, open summer meal sites (where all children can eat) must be located in areas where at least 50 percent of NSLP participants are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. This waiver lifts this requirement.
- USDA has directed NYSED to have a plan for ensuring that new meal sites are targeting benefits to children in need, for example, children who may be newly eligible for benefits due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.
- This waiver is effective as of March 23, 2020 and remains in effect until June 30, 2020, or until expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier. FNS recognizes that there may be a continued need for this waiver, and will carefully assess the situation on an ongoing basis.
Nationwide Waivers of Child Nutrition Monitoring
USDA Policy Memo
USDA/FNS has granted a nationwide waiver to eliminate the requirement to conduct on-site monitoring visits due to the exceptional circumstances of this public health emergency.
- USDA has outlined specific requirements for sponsors and NYSED for each program waiver.
- A waiver has been granted for each of the following Child Nutrition Programs: school meals (NSLP and SBP); CACFP; and SFSP. Each detailed memo can be found in the USDA Policy Memo.
- These waivers are effective immediately, and remain in effect through June 30, 2020, or until expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier
The following waivers have been issued:
Nationwide Waiver to Allow Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children
Program operators in a State with an approved waiver allowing non-congregate meal distribution during COVID-19-related operations may distribute meals to a parent or guardian to take home to their children.
Highlights from USDA Guidance:
- This waiver supports access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to COVID-19
- It applies to the Child Nutrition Programs: National School Lunch Program (NSLP), including the Seamless Summer Option (SSO); School Breakfast Program (SBP); Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP); and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
- States must develop a plan to maintain accountability and program integrity to:
- Ensure that meals are distributed only to parents or guardians of eligible children,
- Ensure duplicate meals are not distributed to any child.
- This waiver is effective immediately and remains in effect until June 30, 2020, or until expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier.
Waiver to Allow Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Child Nutrition Programs
This waiver provides nationwide approval for states to locally waive specific meal pattern requirements for breakfast, lunch, snack and supper as needed to support access to nutritious meals when certain foods are not available due to the COVID-19.
Highlights from USDA Guidance:
- The waiver applies to all of the federal child nutrition programs: SBP, NSLP, SFSP, and CACFP.
- While the waiver is available to all states, program sponsors must submit requests to their state agency for approval that demonstrate disruptions to the availability of food products.
- USDA guidance states that NYSED should consider requests that are targeted and justified based upon disruptions to the availability of food products resulting from unprecedented impacts of COVID-19.
- FNS expects and strongly encourages program operators to maintain and meet the nutrition standards for each Program to the greatest extent possible.
- This waiver is effective immediately and remains in effect until April 30, 2020 or until expiration of the federally declared public health emergency, whichever is earlier. FNS is offering this flexibility in short term increments and will continue to reevaluate.
Nationwide Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Data Waiver
USDA /FNS is extending CEP election, notification and reporting and deadlines for the 2020-21 school year.
Highlights from USDA Guidance:
- For LEAs electing CEP or conducting a grace year in SY 2020-21, the ISP may be calculated using data drawn any time between April 1, 2020, and June 30, 2020.
- NYS Education Department Child Nutrition Program Administration (NYSED CNPA) must notify LEAs of CEP eligibility by June 15, 2020. NYSED CNPA must also submit the lists of CEP-eligible LEAs and schools by June 30, 2020.
- LEAs that intend to elect CEP for SY 2020-2021 must notify the State agency by August 31, 2020.
|CEP Requirement||Annual Deadline||Waiver Deadline|
|Data used to calculate ISP||April 1||Anytime between
April 1 – June 30, 2020
|LEA Notification||April 15||June 15, 2020|
|State Agency Notification||April 15||June 15 , 2020|
|State Agency Publication||May 1||June 30, 2020|
|Elect CEP for Following SY||June 30||August 31, 2020|
Schools and community partners can leverage federal resources and work together to ensure access to nutritious meals during school closures. The summer nutrition programs (the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) through the National School Lunch Program) are available to provide meals during school closures. Many schools are already using these programs to provide meals to students.
Resources have been made available to schools working to feed children who rely on school breakfast and lunch during school closures:
- New guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was released regarding the delivery of meals during school closures related to COVID-19. This Q&A will provide schools and community partners clarification during this unique situation.
- Ensuring Access to the Child Nutrition Programs in the Event of School Closures is a fact sheet from Food Research & Action Center outlining model meal programs during school closures.
- No Kid Hungry Emergency Relief Grants Available—$1 million in emergency grants are available to support local efforts like home delivered meals, grab and go meals programs, school and community pantries, backpack programs, and other steps to help reach children and families who lose access to meals due to school closures related to COVID-19. If your school or organization needs funding to support these efforts, please submit your interest in receiving emergency grant funds.
NYS Education Department Guidance: “Operating Child Nutrition Programs when Schools are Closed due to COVID-19” encourages schools to prepare now to be able to continue to provide “critical support services” like school meals in the event of a school closure. Highlights include:
- School districts and sponsors in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) may provide reimbursable meals to low-income children during school closures related to COVID-19.
- To provide meals to children in areas affected by school closures, schools must complete a one page application and submit to [email protected] for review and approval, prior to commencing meal operations.
- Upon Child Nutrition’s approval of their application, schools may provide up to two meals per day per child through the SFSP or the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) of the National School Lunch Program.
- Meals may be provided and consumed at schools or other locations in the community or provided for consumption at home.
- This memo also includes a Q&A to clarify guidance for operating child nutrition programs when schools are closed due to COVID-19.
We encourage any school with questions to please contact your Child Nutrition Program Representative directly, or email [email protected] if you have additional questions or concerns.
SNAP —updated 3/31/20
On March 31 OTDA issued a notice on COVID-19 to local social service districts. Highlights include:
Interview at Initial Application and Recertification
- SNAP offices are not required to interview a household at initial application or recertification through May 31, 2020 if the following conditions are met:
- the applicant’s identity has been verified; and,
- all other mandatory information and verification has been provided and is valid.
- If either of these conditions are not met, then an interview will be required.
- SNAP offices are directed to make every attempt to verify household circumstances through data matching and information currently present in the State and district systems.
- SNAP offices will be required to interview the household if any of the information or verification submitted cannot be verified through separate verified-upon-receipt data matches.
- This policy also applies to applications eligible for expedited processing.
- No interview will be required as long as the applicant’s identity has been verified and all mandatory information and verification has been submitted.
- OTDA and other states are seeking further clarification and flexibility from FNS around the applications eligible for expedited processing.
The following is a list of mandatory eligibility factors which must be provided when applying or recertifying for SNAP:
- Social Security Number
- Gross non-exempt income (earned and unearned)
- Immigration Status (also referred to as Alien Status by OTDA)
On March 30 OTDA issued a notice on COVID-19 to local social service districts. Highlights include:
- SNAP offices in all counties are not to impose the ABAWD 3-month time limit rule starting on April 1, 2020 and until otherwise instructed by OTDA.
- SNAP recipients subject to the ABAWD time limit rule who:
- Would have become ineligible in March due to using up their 3-months of SNAP benefits without complying with the ABAWD work requirements can continue to receive SNAP benefits through the temporary suspension of the ABAWD time limit rules.
- Were previously determined ineligible due to not complying with the ABAWD work requirements can now reapply for SNAP benefits during the suspension of the ABAWD rules.
On March 24th, NYS OTDA issued a notice on COVID-19 to local social service districts. Highlights include:
- SNAP offices provide essential services and are exempt from the in-person work restrictions put in place in NYS and regardless of county-wide mandates to close county government offices.
- SNAP recipients who were to recertify for SNAP or TA/MA/SNAP in March, April, or May will be given a three-month extension of SNAP benefits.
- SNAP participants who recertified in March and had their recertification processed by the SNAP office will not be eligible for the three-month extension.
- SNAP recipients will not be sent a notice on this extension of benefits or the new deadlines for recertification.
- SNAP offices must post these flyers in English and Spanish.
On March 24th United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) released a fraud alert warning of scams targeting SNAP recipients. This warning applies to WIC recipients too since WIC EBT cards are managed by the same vendor in NYS. Highlights include:
- FNS has already received at least one report of a potential scam targeting SNAP participants.
- FNS stresses that while many organizations are seeking to help communities respond to COVID-19, please be careful with any unknown individual or organization that requests your confidential information.
- Examples of confidential information include your social security number, bank information, or your SNAP EBT card or PIN number.
On March 16th, OTDA issued a notice on COVID-19 to social service districts. Highlights include:
- All SNAP application and recertification interviews may be done by phone. An in-person interview is only required if the applicant or recertifying recipient requests an in-person interview.
- SNAP benefits can be used for online grocery purchases. Current participating retailers include Amazon, Walmart and ShopRite. Amazon is available statewide; Walmart and ShopRite participate in specific zip codes. Walmart, depending on specific locations, offers delivery, pick-up or both. Clients can enter zip code on the Walmart or ShopRite websites to find availability.
- We now know that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law on March 18, includes a temporary nationwide suspension of the ABAWD 3-month time limit rule that will go into effect on April 1. For that reason, local districts in NYS will grant good cause to any ABAWD unable to meet the time-limit work requirement during the month of March.
- Any SNAP recipient that is unable to comply with an Employment and Training work activity due to COVID-19 through May 15, 2020 will not be sanctioned.
- For the duration of the COVID-19 public health crisis, at their discretion, SNAP offices can elect to raise the claims collection threshold to $500 on active SNAP cases.
On March 12th, OTDA issued a notice on COVID-19 to social service districts. Highlights include:
- No waivers and no special provisions have been approved or offered to the states in the operation of SNAP, and the program continues to operate normally. Local social service districts should continue to plan to ensure safe and continuous access to SNAP.
- Local districts are reminded of the requirement to grant good cause when a participant’s failure to meet program requirements is due to factors beyond the participant’s control. The COVID-19 pandemic may result in the inability of individuals to attend agency appointments, including work activity assignments, due to factors such as lack of transportation, lack of child-care, or worksite closures.
- Districts are reminded that telephone interviews at both application and recertification are permissible for all SNAP households and are encouraged to utilize or implement this process. For SNAP cases due for recertification, districts also have the option to extend the certification period up to the maximum allowable certification period of 12 or 24 months, or up to 48 months for NYSNIP cases.
WIC —updated 3/23/20
Many NYS WIC offices are still able to help you by phone. On-site appointments are limited. There are no changes to your family’s “Benefits Valid Through” date. To check your WIC benefit balance, see:
- WIC2Go, the mobile app
- Your last store receipt
- Your store’s customer service desk
- Customer Service at 1–844-540-3031
New York State WIC is not suspending any eWIC cards. Please be aware there are scams online telling families cards are being suspended. This is not true. Once a family receives their benefits, they have the 30-day date range to use those benefits.
If you have additional questions, please contact your local WIC agency.
CACFP —updated 3/31/20
For CACFP questions, contact CACFP at 1-800-942-3858 or [email protected].
NYS Department of Health memo, “Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates for CACFP Sponsoring Organizations,” provides guidance on nationwide waivers related to meal pick-up, meal patterns, and monitoring. Highlights include:
- Centers and family day care home providers who are approved for non-congregate feeding may distribute meals to a parent or guardian to take home to their enrolled child. Therefore, enrolled children do not have to be present when parents/guardians pick up meals or when meals are delivered during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- If there is a shortage of a required food component, sponsoring organizations may request approval from CACFP to claim meals that do not include all the required components.
- CACFP monitoring requirements have been decreased. Please read the memo for more information.
NYS Department of Health’s “Guidance for Non-Congregate Feeding During COVID-19” provides information for CACFP sponsors regarding non-congregate meal service. Highlights include:
- USDA granted a nationwide waiver for non-congregate feeding, which allows CACFP sponsors to continue serving meals to children and adult participants individually. In order to be approved for non-congregate meal service, the sponsor must complete the CACFP-213 COVID-19 Application for Feeding Flexibility (included with the memo to sponsors).
- Meals can be distributed at a site where households pick up the meals or delivered to children and/or adult participant’s homes, or a combination of both.
- Sponsors may provide multiple meals and snacks at one time for up to a 3-day period.
- All meals and snacks must meet CACFP meal pattern requirements.
- Adult Day Care and Programs offering At-Risk Afterschool Meals are not required to offer enrichment activities at this time.
NYS Department of Health guidance, “Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for CACFP Sponsoring Organizations,” explains current flexibilities, waivers submitted to USDA for approval, and other resources available to CACFP providers. Highlights include:
- NYS CACFP has submitted several waivers to USDA, and will notify sponsoring organizations if they are approved. Please read the linked memo for additional information.
- When a school is closed, the school may establish an emergency program through the Child Nutrition Programs to provide food to children who normally attend their school; childcare centers or homes can also receive meals from these schools or other sites at no cost.
These additional websites are providing updated information as it becomes available.
- NYS Education Department Coronavirus Information for Schools
- Food Research and Action Center – Preparing for the Impacts of the Coronavirus on Health, Well-being, and Food Security
- USDA FNS Program Guidance on Pandemic Response including the USDA SNAP Pandemic Planning Guidelines
As a statewide organization dedicated to alleviating hunger, our mission is more important than ever. We will continue to keep you updated on developments.