2021 New York State Policy Priorities
In support of New York State’s anti-hunger agenda, NYS should ensure “No Wrong Door” policies among all nutrition assistance programs and between those programs and other low-income programs, including the creation of systemic connections that allow secure sharing of application information among agencies to determine eligibility for all means-tested programs. The following administrative and legislative changes are recommended to maximize the number of eligible low-income New Yorkers receiving federal nutrition benefits:
Prompt and Full Payments:
New York State must ensure prompt and full contract reimbursements to social and human service providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations providing essential and basic services like hunger relief must be held harmless from reductions to contract reimbursements or delayed payments on vouchers.
Anti-hunger Prioritization and Programming
Engage the public health and medical community to promote food access and nutrition as an essential component of a healthy life:
- Increase provider screening for food insecurity among low-income, vulnerable populations.
- Teach professionals to identify hunger by incorporating training into curricula to recognize signs and symptoms of hunger.
- Use New York’s 2019-2024 Prevention Agenda’s food security goal area to promote interventions, local collaborations, policies, and programs for the public health and healthcare systems to address food insecurity as a factor in adverse health outcomes.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Increase funding for the Nutrition Outreach and Education Program by $2M so that it can serve all New York State counties and provide additional services in high-need counties.
- Increase outreach and education to vulnerable populations with low participation.
- Utilize the state’s Medicaid system as a cross-referral mechanism:
- Establish a statewide process to do data matching between Medicaid and SNAP cases to increase participation in SNAP for eligible households.
- Create linkages between Medicaid and SNAP databases to conduct “in-reach” with Medicaid recipients who are currently not receiving SNAP.
- Ensure outreach, education and application assistance through health homes, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and other healthcare practices that serve a large percentage of low-income patients.
- End mandatory enforcement of SNAP Employment and Training programs in all counties that are still using this model.
- Adopt uniform rules and ensure uniform enforcement of SNAP across the state.
- Adopt a standard excess medical deduction.
- Establish a seamless inter-county transfer process for SNAP recipients who move between counties that would maintain eligibility, ensure continuation of benefits and reduce administrative burdens.
- Establish a 24-month certification period for kinship non-parent caregiver households.
- Ensure effective implementation of policy allowing community college students enrolled in a career or technical education program to qualify for SNAP.
- Take maximum advantage of federal ABAWD waivers, grant exceptions and exemptions, and provide ABAWD individuals with timely, consistent, understandable instructions on compliance.
- Develop an Elderly Simplified Application Project in NYS.
- Improve SNAP access for individuals leaving prison and re-entering society.
- Monitor the combined application project (NYSCAP) which will use individualized budgets for people on SSI and living alone when automatically enrolling them in SNAP.
- Maintain food choice for SNAP recipients. Support public campaigns that promote healthy eating, including increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, and decreased consumptions of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB).
- Increase accessibility to a variety of healthy food for SNAP recipients by reducing food deserts (funded through mechanisms such as a tax on SSB).
- Continue and expand incentive programs to increase buying power for fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and extend these initiatives to include fresh, canned and frozen produce as well as lightly processed food at other types of SNAP retailers.
Take advantage of all USDA SNAP program flexibility and waivers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn:
- Continue providing Emergency Allotments (EA’s) of SNAP benefits.
- Work to secure federal waivers that ensure all SNAP households receive EA’s including those who already receive the maximum benefit; and provide retroactive benefits back to March 2020.
- Extend existing SNAP workload flexibilities to all counties in NYS including extending certification periods, and adjusting interview requirements through June 30, 2021 (as allowed by USDA).
- Suspend the ABAWD time limit rule for as long as there are extended unemployment benefits in NYS or until USDA puts forth a final ABAWD waiver rule.
Child Nutrition Programs
- Extend free universal school meals to all children statewide. These initial policies make progress toward this goal:
- Expand universal school meals by maximizing the use of Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) throughout NYS:
- Increase the number of eligible schools implementing CEP to expand school breakfast and lunch participation.
- Provide guidance to schools on CEP implementation and its potential impact on state aid and state foundation funding.
- Hold CEP schools harmless from changes to state aid formula as a result of operating a universal school meal program.
- Incentivize all CEP schools to ensure all-student access.
- Increase the eligibility threshold for free meals to 200% FPL by investing additional state funds to increase school meal reimbursements up to $1.669 per breakfast and $2.039 per lunch, for each meal provided to children in households with incomes above 185% FPL up to 200% FPL.
- Expand universal school meals by maximizing the use of Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) throughout NYS:
- Improve New York State’s direct certification process:
- Include all the federally allowable categories to be included in the state’s electronic Direct Certification Matching Process (DCMP)
- Ensure NY State Education Department (NYSED) monitors implementation and continues to make improvements to data matching algorithms within the state’s DCMP.
- Coordinate within NYSED to improve student databases for purposes of strengthening access to school meal programs.
- Protect and expand current school breakfast state law to ensure Breakfast in the Classroom for all children in eligible schools.
- Protect and maintain the current Farm to School 30% NYS Incentive Program to ensure access to fresh, local New York State products through the federal school meal programs.
- Protect and maintain all current state reimbursement investments in the SBP and the NSLP.
- As part of the COVID-19 response:
- Deliver Pandemic-EBT benefits to all eligible children through a timely, streamlined benefit delivery process enhanced with robust public education.
- Ensure continued access to school meals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Create and maintain a public resource of meal access sites for the duration of the public health crisis to ensure parents can access meals provided by schools and community-based organizations in the closest community.
- Improve and expand state-level outreach and education efforts:
- Increase outreach, education, application, and claiming assistance to providers throughout the application process and beyond.
- Ensure NYS Department of Health (DOH) regularly assesses, revises if needed, and reports on use of the online CACFP prescreening tool for potential providers.
- Strengthen linkages between NYS Office for Children and Family Services (OCFS) and DOH/CACFP databases to conduct regular “in-reach” with licensed and registered child care and afterschool providers who are not participating in CACFP.
- Create linkages with NYSED and DOH/CACFP databases to conduct regular “in-reach” with summer meals sponsors and school districts that provide afterschool snacks through NSLP, but are not participating in CACFP.
- Provide supplementary guidance on School Age Child Care (SACC) registration requirements to better prepare afterschool programs seeking to apply for CACFP.
- Streamline CACFP application and administration by implementing allowable USDA paperwork reduction recommendations when applicable to NYS, including:
- Eliminating state-specific documentation and recordkeeping requirements that are not required by federal regulation.
- Allowing SFAs to apply for CACFP using their NSLP application with an addendum for additional information required for CACFP.
- Require eligible schools hosting space for afterschool enrichment programs or providing extended learning days to provide access to CACFP’s At-Risk Afterschool Snack/Supper Program and/or NSLP snacks.
- Require schools and community-based organizations receiving afterschool program grants administered through OCFS (Advantage After School, Empire State, and Youth Development Program) or NYSED (21st Century Community Learning Centers, Extended School Day/School Violence Prevention) to ensure program participants have access to afterschool nutrition through CACFP’s At-Risk Afterschool Snack/Supper Program or NSLP snacks, with encouragement to serve complete meals through CACFP where eligible.
- Provide supplemental reimbursement to CACFP providers in recognition of food and administrative costs to provide the program in NYS.
- Implement and/or promote use of model practices from other states that increase participation and retention, such as:
- Offering alternative meal service models such as the umbrella model, meals in the classroom, and campus model.
- Maximizing current sponsor capacity (for both affiliated and unaffiliated sites).
- Providing recorded online training opportunities for potential and new sponsors.
- Providing guidance specific to school food authorities to show flexibility in sponsor application process for these entities.
- Improve the CACFP Information and Payment System to mitigate providers’ and sponsors’ reliance on external software to streamline paperwork.
- Implement all available waivers and flexibilities to ensure access to and viability of CACFP during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn.
- In the absence of nationwide waivers for additional needed flexibilities, apply for statewide waivers.
- Require school districts with eligible schools in underserved communities to provide meals to sites, as a sponsor or vendor, for a minimum of 30 days, with increased administrative support from the regulatory agency.
- Develop a system to promote and connect sites with sponsors in both SFSP and CACFP, including posting information and resources on both agency websites; coordinate, cross promote and cross train on both programs.
- Protect and maintain all current state reimbursement investments in the SFSP
- Provide supplemental reimbursement and/or funding incentives for sponsors to:
- Include enrichment activities in their meal service.
- Provide transportation to underserved areas.
- Increase the amount of NYS-grown fruit and vegetables on the menu.
- Expand their service reach in terms of meal types served, average daily participation, and days of service in underserved areas, weeks of summer and/or school holidays.
- Ease program administration and operation for sponsors and sites by integrating the use of more technology to increase capacity.
- Implement all available waivers and flexibilities to ensure access to and viability of SFSP during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn:
- Encourage all schools to use SFSP/SSO nationwide waiver to feed all students for free during the 2020-2021 school year.
- Proactively bring more School Food Authorities into the SFSP during the 2020-2021 school year, and ahead of summer 2021.
- Maximize participation among eligible New Yorkers:
- Align program with the NYS First 1000 Days initiative to extent possible.
- Create effective automatic referral system with other programs/agencies serving potentially eligible families, including Medicaid, SNAP, and Early Head Start
- Create and implement comprehensive statewide outreach plan
- Initiate online tools to facilitate prescreening and application
- Ensure consistent communication and policy guidance from regional offices to local agencies.
- If USDA waiver approved, encourage local agencies to provide remote nutrition education.
- Accelerate ability to use WIC EBT for online ordering and payment, and for touch-free pick-up and self-checkout.
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