Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Standard Utility Allowances Based on the Receipt of Energy Assistance Payments Under the Agricultural Act of 2014, 23189-23194 [2016-09114]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 76 / Wednesday, April 20, 2016 / Proposed Rules Since this change is a technical correction and editorial in nature, and will not result in a change to the way service is provided to our customers, AMS has determined it will not have a financial impact on small entities that utilize their services. AMS also proposes to revise the prerequisite requirement of shell eggs eligible for USDA grading and certification. The revision will prohibit the use of SE-adulterated shell eggs or recalled shell eggs from being presented to USDA for grading and certification. The FDA prohibits the use of SEadulterated shell eggs from being sold to consumers. When shell eggs are suspected of being adulterated with SE, the packing facility is obligated to test the shell eggs to assure only safe product is distributed to consumers. If shell eggs are found to be adulterated with SE, the FDA will issue a request to the packing facility to voluntarily recall the product, or will exercise its mandatory recall authority to return the product to the origin facility. The product must either be destroyed or reconditioned under FDA supervision. Since SE-adulterated shell eggs or shell eggs that have been recalled are no longer eligible for distribution to consumers, but are either destroyed or reconditioned under the direction of the FDA, changing the AMS regulation will not have an impact on small entities since those shell eggs are deemed unfit for human consumption. Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Paperwork Reduction Act In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has approved the information collection and recordkeeping requirements included in this proposed rule, and there are no new requirements. Should any changes become necessary they would be submitted to OMB for approval. The assigned OMB control number is 0581– 0128, as approved on July 8, 2014. AMS is committed to compliance with the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, which requires government agencies in general to provide the public the option of submitting information or transacting business electronically to the maximum extent possible. E-Government Act AMS is committed to complying with the E-Government Act of 2002 to promote the use of the Internet and other information technologies to provide increased opportunities for citizen access to government VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:51 Apr 19, 2016 Jkt 238001 information and services, and for other purposes. List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 56 Agriculture, Eggs and egg products, Food grades and standards, Food labeling, Food packaging, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Voluntary standards. For the reasons set forth in the preamble, it is proposed that 7 CFR part 56 be amended as follows: PART 56—REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE VOLUNTARY GRADING OF SHELL EGGS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Food and Nutrition Service 7 CFR Part 273 RIN 0584–AE43 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Standard Utility Allowances Based on the Receipt of Energy Assistance Payments Under the Agricultural Act of 2014 Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), USDA. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: This proposed rule would revise Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) regulations in accordance with amendments made to the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (the Act) that requires States that elect to use a heating or cooling standard utility allowance (HCSUA) in SNAP eligibility determinations to make the HCSUA available to households that have received a payment under the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Act of 1981 (LIHEAA) (known as a LowIncome Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) payment), or other similar energy assistance program payment, greater than $20 annually in the current month or in the immediately preceding 12 months. DATES: Written comments must be received on or before June 20, 2016 to be assured of consideration. ADDRESSES: The USDA Food and Nutrition Service invites interested persons to submit written comments on this proposed rule. Comments may be submitted in writing by one of the following methods: • Preferred Method: Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments. • Mail: Send comments to Sasha Gersten-Paal, Branch Chief, Certification Policy Branch, Program Development Division, FNS, 3101 Park Center Drive, Alexandria, Virginia 22302, 703–305– 2507. All written comments submitted in response to this proposed rule will be included in the record and will be made available to the public. Please be advised that the substance of the comments and the identity of the individuals or entities submitting the comments will be subject to public disclosure. FNS will make the written comments publicly available on the Internet via http://www.regulations.gov. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sasha Gersten-Paal, Branch Chief, SUMMARY: 1. The authority citation for part 56 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 7 U.S.C. 1621 et seq. 2. Amend § 56.1 by revising the definition of Condition to read as follows: ■ § 56.1 Meaning of words and terms defined. * * * * * Condition means any characteristic detected by sensory examination (visual, touch, or odor), including the state of preservation, cleanliness, soundness, or fitness for human food that affects the marketing of the product. * * * * * ■ 3. Amend § 56.40 by revising paragraphs (c)(2) and (3) and adding paragraphs (c)(4) and (5) to read as follows: § 56.40 Grading requirements of shell eggs identified with grademarks. * * * * * (c) * * * (2) Not possess any undesirable odors or flavors; (3) Not have previously been shipped for retail sale; (4) Not originate from a layer house environment determined positive for the presence of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) unless the eggs from the layer house have been sampled and have tested negative for the presence of SE in the eggs; and (5) Not originate from eggs testing positive for SE, or not have been subject to a product recall. * * * * * Dated: April 14, 2016. Elanor Starmer, Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service. [FR Doc. 2016–09139 Filed 4–19–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–02–P PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 23189 E:\FR\FM\20APP1.SGM 20APP1 23190 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 76 / Wednesday, April 20, 2016 / Proposed Rules Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Certification Policy Branch, Program Development Division, Food and Nutrition Service, 3101 Park Center Drive, Alexandria, Virginia 22302, 703– 305–2507. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended, establishes uniform national eligibility standards for SNAP, including the definition of a SNAP household, countable income and assets, allowable deductions from gross income, and maximum benefit levels. Households are allowed to deduct certain amounts from their gross monthly income, including shelter expenses that exceed 50 percent of their income after all other deductions (up to a maximum limit for households that do not have elderly or disabled members). Household benefits are calculated based on the household’s maximum allotment and net income; households with lower net incomes generally receive larger benefits than households with higher net incomes. Shelter expenses include the basic cost of housing as well as utilities and other allowable expenses. In order to simplify program administration, States are permitted to establish Standard Utility Allowances (SUAs) that households may use in lieu of actual utility expenses. States may establish multiple SUAs to reflect differences in households’ circumstances. The heating or cooling SUA (HCSUA) is one such SUA and is available to households that pay heating or cooling expenses separate from their rent or mortgage, as well as households that receive LowIncome Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) payments or other similar energy assistance program payments. Households that do not pay heating or cooling expenses out-ofpocket but that are billed directly for other utility costs are entitled to a SUA (or SUAs) appropriate to the types of utility expenses they incur, where applicable. For the purposes of the HCSUA, receipt of a LIHEAP payment serves as a reasonable proxy for the actual utility costs that a household incurs, providing a simpler way for States and applicants to determine utility costs. Before the enactment of the Agricultural Act of 2014, Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv) of the Act provided that all households receiving a LIHEAP payment or on behalf of which a LIHEAP payment was made automatically qualified for the HCSUA, regardless of the amount of the LIHEAP payment. Current regulations at 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) reflect this requirement. VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:51 Apr 19, 2016 Jkt 238001 Section 4006 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 amends Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(I) of the Act by requiring States electing to use an HCSUA to make the HCSUA available to households that received a payment or on behalf of which a payment was made under the LowIncome Home Energy Assistance Act of 1981 or other similar energy assistance program, if in the current month or in the immediately preceding 12 months, the household either received such a payment or such a payment was made on behalf of the household that was greater than $20 annually. This rule codifies guidance FNS issued to States following passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014. The Department is proposing to amend the regulations at 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) to incorporate these changes. Other Similar Energy Assistance Program Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(I) of the Act, as amended by Section 4006 of the Agricultural Act of 2014, provides for the HCSUA upon receipt of LIHEAP payments as well as payments from an ‘‘other similar energy assistance program.’’ The Department is also proposing to amend the regulations at 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) to establish a standard for determining what constitutes an ‘‘other similar energy assistance program.’’ ‘‘[O]ther similar energy assistance program’’ would be defined as a separate home energy assistance program designed to provide heating or cooling assistance through a payment directly to or on behalf of lowincome households. For the purposes of this preamble discussion, the phrase ‘‘qualifying LIHEAP or other payment’’ refers to those LIHEAP or other similar energy assistance program payments that are in excess of $20 annually and have been received by or made on behalf of the household in the current or immediately preceding 12 months. The language in the Act refers to LIHEAP or other similar energy assistance program payments received by or made ‘‘on behalf of’’ households, while the existing regulatory language refers to direct or indirect payments received by households. To support consistency, the Department proposes that the regulatory language reflect the statutory language. Qualifying LIHEAP or Other Payment Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(I) of the Act, as amended by Section 4006 of the Agricultural Act of 2014, requires that the payment received by or made on behalf of the household must exceed $20 annually. The Department does not PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 have discretion to alter the $20 threshold. However, standards regarding the payment would be important and helpful in order to ensure uniformity across State agencies. Therefore, the payment must be quantifiable in order to be acceptable for purposes of granting the HCSUA. By quantifiable, the Department means that the State agency must be able to quantify, in dollars, the amount of the payment. The Department is proposing to codify these requirements at revised 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C)(1)(iii). Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(I) of the Act also requires receipt of the payment in the ‘‘current’’ month or the immediately preceding 12 months in order to confer eligibility for the HCSUA. As proposed, the ‘‘current month’’ refers strictly to the calendar month, meaning from the first to the final day of a given month. On a related note, the Department proposes to revise language at 7 CFR 273.10(d)(6), which currently provides that all energy assistance payments except for those made under the LIHEAA must be prorated over the entire heating or cooling season that the payment is intended to cover. This was a technical error that FNS proposes to correct in this rule. Such a correction is consistent with the language in the Agricultural Act of 2014 that qualifying LIHEAP payments must be received in the current month or the immediately preceding 12 months in order to confer eligibility for the HCSUA. Additionally, the Agricultural Act of 2014 struck language in Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(I) of the Act requiring that households incur ‘‘out-of-pocket heating or cooling expenses in excess of any assistance paid on behalf of the household to an energy provider.’’ In light of these changes made by the Agricultural Act of 2014, FNS is proposing to amend 7 CFR 273.10(d)(6) to reflect the requirement in Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(IV) that assistance under LIHEAA be considered to be prorated over the heating or cooling season. The new language in Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(I) of the Act no longer allows a household to qualify for a HCSUA based on anticipated receipt in future months. This rule proposes that applying the HCSUA to a household’s case based on anticipated receipt is only permissible if the payment is anticipated to be received by the household within the current calendar month. At the State agency’s option, if a qualifying LIHEAP or other payment greater than $20 (or payment which would bring the household’s total payments for the year to a total greater than $20) is scheduled for the current month, the payment may be considered E:\FR\FM\20APP1.SGM 20APP1 Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 76 / Wednesday, April 20, 2016 / Proposed Rules to have been received for the purposes of conferring eligibility for the HCSUA. However, if the payment is not actually made within that month, benefits received by the household would be considered an overissuance and the State agency should pursue a claim against the household for any benefits issued in error in accordance with its established claims management procedures. The Department is proposing to revise 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) accordingly to codify these requirements. State agencies would be responsible for tracking the date and receipt of the qualifying LIHEAP or other payment to ensure the payment satisfies the timing requirements and exceeds the $20 minimum threshold. The Department encourages State agencies to modify data sharing agreements with their respective LIHEAP agencies, as appropriate, to ensure transmission of timely and accurate information needed for SNAP eligibility and benefit determinations. If a household has not received a qualifying LIHEAP or other payment at the time of certification and has not incurred actual utility expenses, the household would not be entitled to the HCSUA at certification. If the household were to subsequently receive a qualifying LIHEAP or other payment, or if one were made on the household’s behalf during the certification period, the State agency would need to take action according to the rules of their chosen reporting system under 7 CFR 273.12. The Department notes that this provision does not affect a household’s ability, if any, to use actual costs rather than the standardized HCSUA. SNAP households that are billed directly for utility costs are entitled to a Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) appropriate to the types of utility expenses they incur. In States that do not have mandatory SUA policies, the household is entitled to use its actual costs, rather than the standard. The Department encourages all State agencies to review their available utility allowances to ensure that all households with actual expenses are able to claim an allowance that best represents that types of utility expenses they have. As a related issue, the regulations at 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) as currently written provide that a HCSUA is available to households in private rental housing who are billed by their landlords on the basis of individual usage or who are charged a flat rate separately from their rent. However, the Department understands that some individuals renting in public housing VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:51 Apr 19, 2016 Jkt 238001 may also be billed based on individual usage or separately from their rent. Although the more common situation is for public housing properties to include heating and cooling costs in the rent, public housing rental situations with separate heating and cooling costs do exist. For these reasons, the Department is proposing a technical correction to § 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) by removing the word ‘‘private’’ from this provision. In States with mandatory HCSUAs, utility costs do not require verification for SNAP purposes, unless questionable. Similarly, receipt of more than $20 in qualifying LIHEAP or other payments would not require verification for SNAP purposes, unless questionable. In States that do not mandate use of the HCSUA, verification of utility costs is mandatory if the household wishes to claim utility costs in excess of the State agency’s HCSUA and the expense would actually result in a deduction. State agencies should consider program access, integrity, and the potential for Quality Control errors in determining their verification procedures. Special Circumstances State agencies that use the HCSUA would need to make the HCSUA available to SNAP households that have received a qualifying LIHEAP or other similar energy assistance program payment, regardless of any change in the household’s residence or address. The Act does not specify that the qualifying LIHEAP or other payment must be received at the household’s current address or place of residence. If the State agency has an indication that a household received a qualifying LIHEAP or other payment in another State, the State would need to act on it. Again, for States that have elected to use a HCSUA, the HCSUA would need to be made available to households that have received a qualifying LIHEAP or other payment, provided that the payment was received in the current month or preceding 12 months and was in excess of $20 over the same time period. If a household that has received a qualifying LIHEAP or other payment subsequently splits into two SNAP households, State agencies would need to determine which one household is eligible for the HCSUA based on the qualifying LIHEAP or other payment. The Department believes the State agency is in the best situation to determine which household would receive the HCSUA based on the qualifying LIHEAP or other payment. As with other discretionary policy decisions, a State’s chosen policy would need to be applied in a consistent and equitable way. The Department is PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 23191 proposing to revise 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) to incorporate these standards. The Department has received several inquiries regarding weatherization projects and eligibility for the HCSUA. The Department understands that State agencies may use a portion of LIHEAP block grant funding to support weatherization projects. Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv) of the Act requires State agencies that use the HCSUA to make the HCSUA available to SNAP households that have received a LIHEAP or other payment, provided the payment was received by or made on behalf of the household in the current or preceding 12 months and exceeds $20 annually. The Act does not explicitly address how State agencies should evaluate LIHEAP funds that are used to pay for weatherization projects on behalf of households in multi-family dwellings. However, to be an acceptable qualifying LIHEAP or other payment, the payment must be quantifiable to the household. The Department is proposing that weatherization projects for multi-family dwellings cannot confer eligibility for the HCSUA for households within the multi-family dwelling. The Act does not explicitly address how State agencies should evaluate LIHEAP funds that are used to pay for weatherization projects in multi-family dwellings. However, in a June 15, 1999 Information Memorandum issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees LIHEAP at the Federal level, HHS determined that weatherization of multi-unit buildings ‘‘is not a benefit provided to an individual, household or family eligibility unit.’’ Because the Act requires that the LIHEAP or other payment must have been received by or made on behalf of a household, the Department is proposing that such payments cannot confer eligibility for the HCSUA. However, the Department requests comment on whether HHS’ guidance is fully applicable in this situation, such as when weatherization of multi-family dwellings is funded by other similar energy assistance programs, and is considering alternative approaches that may allow multi-family dwelling weatherization projects to confer eligibility for the HCSUA. The Department requests comment on this proposal as well as potential alternative approaches. Procedural Matters Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to assess all costs and E:\FR\FM\20APP1.SGM 20APP1 23192 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 76 / Wednesday, April 20, 2016 / Proposed Rules Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize net benefits (including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety effects, distributive impacts, and equity). Executive Order 13563 emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, of reducing costs, of harmonizing rules, and of promoting flexibility. This proposed rule has been determined to be economically significant and was reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in conformance with Executive Order 12866. Regulatory Impact Analysis As required for all rules that have been designated as significant by OMB, a RIA was developed for this proposed rule. The RIA for this rule was published as part of docket number [Docket Placeholder] on www.regulations.gov. A summary of the analysis follows: The Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) that accompanies this proposed rule outlines the savings to the Government as well as the effect of the proposed rule on low-income families, program participation, and State agencies. The RIA also outlines the uncertainty in assumptions on savings and alternatives considered when drafting the proposed rule. The Department estimates that the total savings to the Government from reduced SNAP benefits will be $2.2 billion between FY 2016 and FY 2020. The Department estimates that the effect of the rule on low-income families will result in potentially smaller benefit amounts for some families, primarily those living in States that have minimum LIHEAP payments below the new minimum threshold for LIHEAP payments required to be eligible for a HCSUA. The Department estimates that the impact on SNAP participation will be minimal, with one-fourth of households in States that do not increase their LIHEAP payment above the $20 threshold seeing a decrease in benefits, but likely still being eligible to participate in the program. The Department estimates that the impact on State agencies will be minimal since States already made changes to their current caseload in accordance with the timeframes established under Section 4006 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 and the FNS guidance implementing Section 4006. There is some uncertainty concerning the estimates in the RIA, in part because they assume no changes in State behavior over time. Thirteen States VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:51 Apr 19, 2016 Jkt 238001 have increased their minimum LIHEAP payments following the enactment of Section 4006 of the Agricultural Act of 2014. If one or more of these thirteen states decreases or discontinues these minimum payments in future years, savings would increase. Conversely, if any additional States decide to issue LIHEAP payments above the $20 threshold in future years, savings would decrease. The Department did not consider any alternatives to this rule because the language in the Agricultural Act of 2014 was very specific and prescriptive regarding the implementation dates and the payment threshold required. Regulatory Flexibility Act The Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601–612) requires Agencies to analyze the impact of rulemaking on small entities and consider alternatives that would minimize any significant impacts on a substantial number of small entities. Pursuant to that review, it has been certified that this proposed rule would not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. State agencies that administer SNAP will be affected to the extent they implement the changes to program operations. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA), Public Law 104–4, establishes requirements for Federal agencies to assess the effects of their regulatory actions on State, local and Tribal governments and the private sector. Under section 202 of the UMRA, the Department generally must prepare a written statement, including a cost benefit analysis, for proposed and final rules with ‘‘Federal mandates’’ that may result in expenditures by State, local or Tribal governments, in the aggregate, or the private sector, of $100 million or more in any one year. When such a statement is needed for a rule, Section 205 of the UMRA generally requires the Department to identify and consider a reasonable number of regulatory alternatives and adopt the most cost effective or least burdensome alternative that achieves the objectives of the rule. This proposed rule does not contain Federal mandates (under the regulatory provisions of Title II of the UMRA) for State, local and Tribal governments or the private sector of $100 million or more in any one year. Thus, the rule is not subject to the requirements of sections 202 and 205 of the UMRA. Executive Order 12372 SNAP is listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Programs PO 00000 Frm 00005 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 under 10.551. For the reasons set forth in the final rule in 7 CFR part 3015, subpart V, and related Notice (48 FR 29115, June 24, 1983), this program is included in the scope of Executive Order 12372, which requires intergovernmental consultation with State and local officials. Federalism Summary Impact Statement Executive Order 13132 requires Federal agencies to consider the impact of their regulatory actions on State and local governments. Where such actions have federalism implications, agencies are directed to provide a statement for inclusion in the preamble to the regulations describing the agency’s considerations in terms of the three categories called for under Section (6)(b)(2)(B) of Executive Order 13121. The Department has determined that this proposed rule does not have Federalism implications. This rule does not impose substantial or direct compliance costs on State and local governments. Therefore, under Section 6(b) of the Executive Order, a Federalism summary impact statement is not required. Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform This proposed rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform. This rule, when published as a final rule, is intended to have preemptive effect with respect to any State or local laws, regulations or policies which conflict with its provisions or which would otherwise impede its full and timely implementation. This rule is not intended to have retroactive effect unless so specified in the Effective Dates section of the final rule. Prior to any judicial challenge to the provisions of the final rule, all applicable administrative procedures must be exhausted. Civil Rights Impact Analysis The Department has reviewed this proposed rule in accordance with the Department Regulation 4300–4, ‘‘Civil Rights Impact Analysis,’’ to identify and address any major civil rights impacts the rule might have on minorities, women, and persons with disabilities. After a careful review of the rule’s intent and provisions, the Department has determined that this rule will not in any way limit or reduce the ability of protected classes of individuals. The Department has reviewed this proposed rule in accordance with USDA Regulation 4300–4, ‘‘Civil Rights Impact Analysis,’’ to identify any major civil rights impacts the rule might have on E:\FR\FM\20APP1.SGM 20APP1 Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 76 / Wednesday, April 20, 2016 / Proposed Rules program participants on the basis of age, race, color, national origin, sex, or disability. The changes to SNAP regulations in this proposed rule are required by law and are not intended to limit the participation of any group of individuals in the SNAP program. Impact on Households: This mandatory change will impact all households uniformly, regardless of status in a protected class. Although LIHEAP and other similar energy assistance program payments are issued by agencies other than USDA, FNS understands that these payments are not disseminated to specific portions of the population based on status in a protected class. Nor does FNS have information indicating that particular protected classes receive these payments. In States that do not provide minimum LIHEAP payments greater than $20, the new legislation may affect the number of households that qualify for the HCSUA and may cause a reduction to those households’ monthly SNAP benefit amounts. However, households that previously qualified for the HCSUA based on the receipt of a $20 or less LIHEAP payment may still qualify for the HCSUA if they incur heating or cooling expenses. Only those households without actual heating and cooling costs will experience a benefit change due to the implementation of this provision of the Agricultural Act of 2014. Further, FNS specifically prohibits the State and local government agencies that administer the program from engaging in discriminatory actions. Discrimination in any aspect of program administration is prohibited by SNAP regulations, the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Where State agencies have options, and they choose to implement a certain provision, they must implement it in such a way that it complies with these requirements and the regulations at 7 CFR 272.6. Impact on State Agencies: State agencies have already implemented this requirement, and have already completed necessary changes to eligibility systems, manuals, and training procedures for staff. Also, although State agencies had some flexibility to stagger the application of this provision to ongoing caseloads, at this point, the new requirements are being used to determine program VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:51 Apr 19, 2016 Jkt 238001 23193 eligibility for all new applicants and ongoing cases. Training and Outreach: SNAP is administered by State agencies which communicate program information and program rules based on Federal law and regulations to those within their jurisdiction, including individuals from protected classes that may be affected by program changes. After the passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014, FNS worked with State agencies to ensure their understanding of the changes required by Section 4006. FNS released an implementation memorandum on this provision with all State agencies on March 5, 2014. In response to various State agencies’ questions on LIHEAPrelated issues, FNS shared guidance through a Question & Answer memorandum on April 7, 2014 and a second Q&A memorandum on August 20, 2014 to address the State agencies’ questions and concerns and ensure clarity on requirements for implementing the requirement. FNS also maintains a public Web site that provides basic information on each program, including SNAP. Interested persons, including potential applicants, applicants, and participants can find information about these changes as well as State agency contact information, downloadable applications, and links to State agency Web sites and online applications. After careful review of the rule’s intent and provisions, and the characteristics of SNAP households and individual participants, the Department has determined that this proposed rule will not have a disparate impact on any group or class of persons. agency held a webinar for tribal participation and comments. No comments were received. If a Tribe requests consultation, FNS will work with the Office of Tribal Relations to ensure meaningful consultation is provided where changes, additions, and modifications identified herein are not expressly mandated by Congress. Executive Order 13175 This proposed rule has been reviewed in accordance with the requirements of Executive Order 13175, ‘‘Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments.’’ Executive Order 13175 requires Federal agencies to consult and coordinate with tribes on a governmentto-government basis on policies that have tribal implications, including regulations, legislative comments or proposed legislation, and other policy statements or actions that have substantial direct effects on one or more Indian tribes, on the relationship between the Federal Government and Indian tribes or on the distribution of power and responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian tribes. FNS has assessed the impact of this proposed rule on Indian tribes and determined that this rule does not, to our knowledge, have tribal implications that require tribal consultation under E.O. 13175. On February 18, 2015, the Determining household eligibility and benefit levels, Income and deductions. Accordingly, 7 CFR part 273 is proposed to be amended as follows: PO 00000 Frm 00006 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Paperwork Reduction Act The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chap. 35; 5 CFR 13200) requires that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approve all collections of information by a Federal agency before they can be implemented. This proposed rule does not contain information collection requirements subject to approval of OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1994. State agencies were required to make minimal, one-time changes to their eligibility systems, manuals, and training procedures for staff by May 5, 2014 to comply with the provisions of the statute. Other minimal burdens imposed on State agencies by this proposed rule are usual and customary within the course of their normal business activities. E-Government Act Compliance The Department is committed to complying with the E-Government Act, to promote the use of the Internet and other information technologies to provide increased opportunities for citizen access to Government information and services, and for other purposes. List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 273 PART 273—CERTIFICATION OF ELIGIBLE HOUSEHOLDS 1. The authority citation for part 273 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 7 U.S.C. 2011–2036. 2. In § 273.9, revise paragraph (d)(6)(iii)(C) to read as follows: ■ § 273.9 Income and deductions. * * * * * (d) * * * (6) * * * (iii) * * * (C)(1) A standard with a heating or cooling component must be made available to the following households: (i) Households that incur heating or cooling expenses separately from their rent or mortgage; E:\FR\FM\20APP1.SGM 20APP1 Lhorne on DSK5TPTVN1PROD with PROPOSALS 23194 Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 76 / Wednesday, April 20, 2016 / Proposed Rules (ii) Households in rental housing who are billed by their landlords on the basis of individual usage or who are charged a flat rate separately from their rent. However, households in public housing units which have central utility meters and which charge households only for excess heating or cooling costs are not entitled to a standard that includes heating or cooling costs based only on the charge for excess usage, unless the State agency mandates the use of standard utility allowances in accordance with paragraph (d)(6)(iii)(E) of this section; and (iii) Households that receive a payment or on behalf of which a payment was made under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Act of 1981 (LIHEAA) or other similar energy assistance program, if in the current month or in the immediately preceding 12 months and such payment was greater than $20 annually. Other similar energy assistance programs are separate home energy assistance programs designed to provide heating or cooling assistance through a payment received by or made on behalf of low-income households. A payment received by a household or made on behalf of a household under LIHEAA or other similar energy assistance program must be quantifiable in order to confer eligibility for the heating and cooling standard utility allowance. A quantifiable payment is one that the State agency quantifies, in dollars. The State agency shall document the date and receipt of a payment made under LIHEAA or other similar energy assistance program to ensure the payment was received in the current month or the immediately preceding 12 months and exceeds $20 annually. In determining a household’s eligibility for the HCSUA, State agencies shall not consider anticipated receipt of a payment to be an actual payment received under the LIHEAA or other similar energy assistance program. However, for purposes of this subclause, a State agency may consider a payment under the LIHEAA or other similar energy assistance program to be received by the household or on behalf of the household if the household is scheduled to receive the payment in the current month. In a case where a payment is scheduled to be received in the current month and the payment is not actually made within that month, the State agency is responsible for determining whether an overissuance has occurred and, if so, establishing a claim against the household for any benefits issued in error in accordance with the requirements at 7 CFR 273.18. VerDate Sep<11>2014 14:51 Apr 19, 2016 Jkt 238001 If a household that has received a payment made under the LIHEAA or other similar energy assistance program or such a payment has been made on a household’s behalf and the household subsequently splits into two SNAP households, the State agency must determine which one household is eligible for the heating and cooling standard utility allowance as a result of receiving that payment. (2) A household that has both an occupied home and an unoccupied home is only entitled to one standard. * * * * * ■ 3. In § 273.10, revise paragraph (d)(6) to read as follows: § 273.10 Determining household eligibility and benefit levels. * * * * * (d) * * * (6) Energy Assistance Payments. The State agency shall prorate energy assistance payments as provided for in § 273.9(d) of this part over the entire heating or cooling season the payment is intended to cover. * * * * * Dated: April 12, 2016. Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. [FR Doc. 2016–09114 Filed 4–19–16; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–30–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Food Safety and Inspection Service 9 CFR Part 381 [Docket No. FSIS–2015–0042] RIN 0583–ZA11 Eligibility of the Republic of Poland To Export Poultry Products to the United States Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA. ACTION: Proposed rule. AGENCY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is proposing to add the Republic of Poland (Poland) to the list of countries in the regulations eligible to export poultry products to the United States. FSIS has reviewed Poland’s poultry laws, regulations, and inspection system as implemented and has tentatively determined that they are equivalent to the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA), the regulations implementing this statute, and the U.S. food safety system for poultry. Should this rule become final, slaughtered poultry, or parts or other SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00007 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 products thereof, processed in certified Polish establishments, would be eligible for export to the United States. Although Poland may be listed in FSIS’s regulations as eligible to export poultry products to the United States, the products must also comply with all other applicable requirements of the United States, including those of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), before any products can enter the United States. All such products would be subject to re-inspection at U.S. ports-of-entry by FSIS inspectors. DATES: Comments must be received on or before June 20, 2016. ADDRESSES: FSIS invites interested persons to submit comments on this proposed rule. Comments may be submitted by one of the following methods: • Federal eRulemaking Portal: This Web site provides the ability to type short comments directly into the comment field on this Web page or attach a file for lengthier comments. Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions at that site for submitting comments. • Mail, including CD–ROMs, etc.: Send to Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Patriots Plaza 3, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Mailstop 3782, Room 8–163A, Washington, DC 20250–3700. • Hand- or courier-delivered submittals: Deliver to Patriots Plaza 3, 355 E Street SW., Room 8–163B, Washington, DC 20250–3700. Instructions: All items submitted by mail or electronic mail must include the Agency name and docket number FSIS– 2015–0042. Comments received in response to this docket will be made available for public inspection and posted without change, including any personal information, to http:// www.regulations.gov. Docket: For access to background documents or comments received, go to the FSIS Docket Room at Patriots Plaza 3, 355 E Street SW., Room 8–164, Washington, DC 20250–3700 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Daniel Engeljohn, Assistant Administrator, Office of Policy and Program Development; Telephone: (202) 205–0495. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background FSIS is proposing to amend its poultry products inspection regulations to add Poland to the list of countries E:\FR\FM\20APP1.SGM 20APP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 76 (Wednesday, April 20, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 23189-23194]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-09114]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food and Nutrition Service

7 CFR Part 273

RIN 0584-AE43


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Standard Utility 
Allowances Based on the Receipt of Energy Assistance Payments Under the 
Agricultural Act of 2014

AGENCY: Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), USDA.

ACTION: Proposed rule.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This proposed rule would revise Supplemental Nutrition 
Assistance Program (SNAP) regulations in accordance with amendments 
made to the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 (the Act) that requires 
States that elect to use a heating or cooling standard utility 
allowance (HCSUA) in SNAP eligibility determinations to make the HCSUA 
available to households that have received a payment under the Low-
Income Home Energy Assistance Act of 1981 (LIHEAA) (known as a Low-
Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) payment), or other 
similar energy assistance program payment, greater than $20 annually in 
the current month or in the immediately preceding 12 months.

DATES: Written comments must be received on or before June 20, 2016 to 
be assured of consideration.

ADDRESSES: The USDA Food and Nutrition Service invites interested 
persons to submit written comments on this proposed rule. Comments may 
be submitted in writing by one of the following methods:
     Preferred Method: Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting 
comments.
     Mail: Send comments to Sasha Gersten-Paal, Branch Chief, 
Certification Policy Branch, Program Development Division, FNS, 3101 
Park Center Drive, Alexandria, Virginia 22302, 703-305-2507.
    All written comments submitted in response to this proposed rule 
will be included in the record and will be made available to the 
public. Please be advised that the substance of the comments and the 
identity of the individuals or entities submitting the comments will be 
subject to public disclosure. FNS will make the written comments 
publicly available on the Internet via http://www.regulations.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Sasha Gersten-Paal, Branch Chief,

[[Page 23190]]

Certification Policy Branch, Program Development Division, Food and 
Nutrition Service, 3101 Park Center Drive, Alexandria, Virginia 22302, 
703-305-2507.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended, establishes uniform 
national eligibility standards for SNAP, including the definition of a 
SNAP household, countable income and assets, allowable deductions from 
gross income, and maximum benefit levels. Households are allowed to 
deduct certain amounts from their gross monthly income, including 
shelter expenses that exceed 50 percent of their income after all other 
deductions (up to a maximum limit for households that do not have 
elderly or disabled members). Household benefits are calculated based 
on the household's maximum allotment and net income; households with 
lower net incomes generally receive larger benefits than households 
with higher net incomes.
    Shelter expenses include the basic cost of housing as well as 
utilities and other allowable expenses. In order to simplify program 
administration, States are permitted to establish Standard Utility 
Allowances (SUAs) that households may use in lieu of actual utility 
expenses. States may establish multiple SUAs to reflect differences in 
households' circumstances. The heating or cooling SUA (HCSUA) is one 
such SUA and is available to households that pay heating or cooling 
expenses separate from their rent or mortgage, as well as households 
that receive Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) 
payments or other similar energy assistance program payments. 
Households that do not pay heating or cooling expenses out-of-pocket 
but that are billed directly for other utility costs are entitled to a 
SUA (or SUAs) appropriate to the types of utility expenses they incur, 
where applicable.
    For the purposes of the HCSUA, receipt of a LIHEAP payment serves 
as a reasonable proxy for the actual utility costs that a household 
incurs, providing a simpler way for States and applicants to determine 
utility costs. Before the enactment of the Agricultural Act of 2014, 
Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv) of the Act provided that all households 
receiving a LIHEAP payment or on behalf of which a LIHEAP payment was 
made automatically qualified for the HCSUA, regardless of the amount of 
the LIHEAP payment. Current regulations at 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) 
reflect this requirement.
    Section 4006 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 amends Section 
5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(I) of the Act by requiring States electing to use an 
HCSUA to make the HCSUA available to households that received a payment 
or on behalf of which a payment was made under the Low-Income Home 
Energy Assistance Act of 1981 or other similar energy assistance 
program, if in the current month or in the immediately preceding 12 
months, the household either received such a payment or such a payment 
was made on behalf of the household that was greater than $20 annually.
    This rule codifies guidance FNS issued to States following passage 
of the Agricultural Act of 2014. The Department is proposing to amend 
the regulations at 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) to incorporate these 
changes.

Other Similar Energy Assistance Program

    Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(I) of the Act, as amended by Section 4006 of 
the Agricultural Act of 2014, provides for the HCSUA upon receipt of 
LIHEAP payments as well as payments from an ``other similar energy 
assistance program.'' The Department is also proposing to amend the 
regulations at 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) to establish a standard for 
determining what constitutes an ``other similar energy assistance 
program.'' ``[O]ther similar energy assistance program'' would be 
defined as a separate home energy assistance program designed to 
provide heating or cooling assistance through a payment directly to or 
on behalf of low-income households.
    For the purposes of this preamble discussion, the phrase 
``qualifying LIHEAP or other payment'' refers to those LIHEAP or other 
similar energy assistance program payments that are in excess of $20 
annually and have been received by or made on behalf of the household 
in the current or immediately preceding 12 months.
    The language in the Act refers to LIHEAP or other similar energy 
assistance program payments received by or made ``on behalf of'' 
households, while the existing regulatory language refers to direct or 
indirect payments received by households. To support consistency, the 
Department proposes that the regulatory language reflect the statutory 
language.

Qualifying LIHEAP or Other Payment

    Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(I) of the Act, as amended by Section 4006 of 
the Agricultural Act of 2014, requires that the payment received by or 
made on behalf of the household must exceed $20 annually. The 
Department does not have discretion to alter the $20 threshold. 
However, standards regarding the payment would be important and helpful 
in order to ensure uniformity across State agencies. Therefore, the 
payment must be quantifiable in order to be acceptable for purposes of 
granting the HCSUA. By quantifiable, the Department means that the 
State agency must be able to quantify, in dollars, the amount of the 
payment. The Department is proposing to codify these requirements at 
revised 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C)(1)(iii).
    Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(I) of the Act also requires receipt of the 
payment in the ``current'' month or the immediately preceding 12 months 
in order to confer eligibility for the HCSUA. As proposed, the 
``current month'' refers strictly to the calendar month, meaning from 
the first to the final day of a given month.
    On a related note, the Department proposes to revise language at 7 
CFR 273.10(d)(6), which currently provides that all energy assistance 
payments except for those made under the LIHEAA must be prorated over 
the entire heating or cooling season that the payment is intended to 
cover. This was a technical error that FNS proposes to correct in this 
rule. Such a correction is consistent with the language in the 
Agricultural Act of 2014 that qualifying LIHEAP payments must be 
received in the current month or the immediately preceding 12 months in 
order to confer eligibility for the HCSUA. Additionally, the 
Agricultural Act of 2014 struck language in Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(I) 
of the Act requiring that households incur ``out-of-pocket heating or 
cooling expenses in excess of any assistance paid on behalf of the 
household to an energy provider.'' In light of these changes made by 
the Agricultural Act of 2014, FNS is proposing to amend 7 CFR 
273.10(d)(6) to reflect the requirement in Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(IV) 
that assistance under LIHEAA be considered to be prorated over the 
heating or cooling season.
    The new language in Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv)(I) of the Act no longer 
allows a household to qualify for a HCSUA based on anticipated receipt 
in future months. This rule proposes that applying the HCSUA to a 
household's case based on anticipated receipt is only permissible if 
the payment is anticipated to be received by the household within the 
current calendar month. At the State agency's option, if a qualifying 
LIHEAP or other payment greater than $20 (or payment which would bring 
the household's total payments for the year to a total greater than 
$20) is scheduled for the current month, the payment may be considered

[[Page 23191]]

to have been received for the purposes of conferring eligibility for 
the HCSUA. However, if the payment is not actually made within that 
month, benefits received by the household would be considered an 
overissuance and the State agency should pursue a claim against the 
household for any benefits issued in error in accordance with its 
established claims management procedures. The Department is proposing 
to revise 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) accordingly to codify these 
requirements.
    State agencies would be responsible for tracking the date and 
receipt of the qualifying LIHEAP or other payment to ensure the payment 
satisfies the timing requirements and exceeds the $20 minimum 
threshold. The Department encourages State agencies to modify data 
sharing agreements with their respective LIHEAP agencies, as 
appropriate, to ensure transmission of timely and accurate information 
needed for SNAP eligibility and benefit determinations.
    If a household has not received a qualifying LIHEAP or other 
payment at the time of certification and has not incurred actual 
utility expenses, the household would not be entitled to the HCSUA at 
certification. If the household were to subsequently receive a 
qualifying LIHEAP or other payment, or if one were made on the 
household's behalf during the certification period, the State agency 
would need to take action according to the rules of their chosen 
reporting system under 7 CFR 273.12.
    The Department notes that this provision does not affect a 
household's ability, if any, to use actual costs rather than the 
standardized HCSUA. SNAP households that are billed directly for 
utility costs are entitled to a Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) 
appropriate to the types of utility expenses they incur. In States that 
do not have mandatory SUA policies, the household is entitled to use 
its actual costs, rather than the standard. The Department encourages 
all State agencies to review their available utility allowances to 
ensure that all households with actual expenses are able to claim an 
allowance that best represents that types of utility expenses they 
have.
    As a related issue, the regulations at 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) as 
currently written provide that a HCSUA is available to households in 
private rental housing who are billed by their landlords on the basis 
of individual usage or who are charged a flat rate separately from 
their rent. However, the Department understands that some individuals 
renting in public housing may also be billed based on individual usage 
or separately from their rent. Although the more common situation is 
for public housing properties to include heating and cooling costs in 
the rent, public housing rental situations with separate heating and 
cooling costs do exist. For these reasons, the Department is proposing 
a technical correction to Sec.  273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) by removing the 
word ``private'' from this provision.
    In States with mandatory HCSUAs, utility costs do not require 
verification for SNAP purposes, unless questionable. Similarly, receipt 
of more than $20 in qualifying LIHEAP or other payments would not 
require verification for SNAP purposes, unless questionable. In States 
that do not mandate use of the HCSUA, verification of utility costs is 
mandatory if the household wishes to claim utility costs in excess of 
the State agency's HCSUA and the expense would actually result in a 
deduction. State agencies should consider program access, integrity, 
and the potential for Quality Control errors in determining their 
verification procedures.

Special Circumstances

    State agencies that use the HCSUA would need to make the HCSUA 
available to SNAP households that have received a qualifying LIHEAP or 
other similar energy assistance program payment, regardless of any 
change in the household's residence or address. The Act does not 
specify that the qualifying LIHEAP or other payment must be received at 
the household's current address or place of residence.
    If the State agency has an indication that a household received a 
qualifying LIHEAP or other payment in another State, the State would 
need to act on it. Again, for States that have elected to use a HCSUA, 
the HCSUA would need to be made available to households that have 
received a qualifying LIHEAP or other payment, provided that the 
payment was received in the current month or preceding 12 months and 
was in excess of $20 over the same time period.
    If a household that has received a qualifying LIHEAP or other 
payment subsequently splits into two SNAP households, State agencies 
would need to determine which one household is eligible for the HCSUA 
based on the qualifying LIHEAP or other payment. The Department 
believes the State agency is in the best situation to determine which 
household would receive the HCSUA based on the qualifying LIHEAP or 
other payment. As with other discretionary policy decisions, a State's 
chosen policy would need to be applied in a consistent and equitable 
way. The Department is proposing to revise 7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(iii)(C) to 
incorporate these standards.
    The Department has received several inquiries regarding 
weatherization projects and eligibility for the HCSUA. The Department 
understands that State agencies may use a portion of LIHEAP block grant 
funding to support weatherization projects. Section 5(e)(6)(C)(iv) of 
the Act requires State agencies that use the HCSUA to make the HCSUA 
available to SNAP households that have received a LIHEAP or other 
payment, provided the payment was received by or made on behalf of the 
household in the current or preceding 12 months and exceeds $20 
annually.
    The Act does not explicitly address how State agencies should 
evaluate LIHEAP funds that are used to pay for weatherization projects 
on behalf of households in multi-family dwellings. However, to be an 
acceptable qualifying LIHEAP or other payment, the payment must be 
quantifiable to the household. The Department is proposing that 
weatherization projects for multi-family dwellings cannot confer 
eligibility for the HCSUA for households within the multi-family 
dwelling. The Act does not explicitly address how State agencies should 
evaluate LIHEAP funds that are used to pay for weatherization projects 
in multi-family dwellings. However, in a June 15, 1999 Information 
Memorandum issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 
which oversees LIHEAP at the Federal level, HHS determined that 
weatherization of multi-unit buildings ``is not a benefit provided to 
an individual, household or family eligibility unit.'' Because the Act 
requires that the LIHEAP or other payment must have been received by or 
made on behalf of a household, the Department is proposing that such 
payments cannot confer eligibility for the HCSUA. However, the 
Department requests comment on whether HHS' guidance is fully 
applicable in this situation, such as when weatherization of multi-
family dwellings is funded by other similar energy assistance programs, 
and is considering alternative approaches that may allow multi-family 
dwelling weatherization projects to confer eligibility for the HCSUA. 
The Department requests comment on this proposal as well as potential 
alternative approaches.

Procedural Matters

Executive Orders 12866 and 13563

    Executive Orders 12866 and 13563 direct agencies to assess all 
costs and

[[Page 23192]]

benefits of available regulatory alternatives and, if regulation is 
necessary, to select regulatory approaches that maximize net benefits 
(including potential economic, environmental, public health and safety 
effects, distributive impacts, and equity). Executive Order 13563 
emphasizes the importance of quantifying both costs and benefits, of 
reducing costs, of harmonizing rules, and of promoting flexibility.
    This proposed rule has been determined to be economically 
significant and was reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget 
(OMB) in conformance with Executive Order 12866.

Regulatory Impact Analysis

    As required for all rules that have been designated as significant 
by OMB, a RIA was developed for this proposed rule. The RIA for this 
rule was published as part of docket number [Docket Placeholder] on 
www.regulations.gov. A summary of the analysis follows:
    The Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) that accompanies this proposed 
rule outlines the savings to the Government as well as the effect of 
the proposed rule on low-income families, program participation, and 
State agencies. The RIA also outlines the uncertainty in assumptions on 
savings and alternatives considered when drafting the proposed rule.
    The Department estimates that the total savings to the Government 
from reduced SNAP benefits will be $2.2 billion between FY 2016 and FY 
2020. The Department estimates that the effect of the rule on low-
income families will result in potentially smaller benefit amounts for 
some families, primarily those living in States that have minimum 
LIHEAP payments below the new minimum threshold for LIHEAP payments 
required to be eligible for a HCSUA. The Department estimates that the 
impact on SNAP participation will be minimal, with one-fourth of 
households in States that do not increase their LIHEAP payment above 
the $20 threshold seeing a decrease in benefits, but likely still being 
eligible to participate in the program. The Department estimates that 
the impact on State agencies will be minimal since States already made 
changes to their current caseload in accordance with the timeframes 
established under Section 4006 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 and the 
FNS guidance implementing Section 4006. There is some uncertainty 
concerning the estimates in the RIA, in part because they assume no 
changes in State behavior over time. Thirteen States have increased 
their minimum LIHEAP payments following the enactment of Section 4006 
of the Agricultural Act of 2014. If one or more of these thirteen 
states decreases or discontinues these minimum payments in future 
years, savings would increase. Conversely, if any additional States 
decide to issue LIHEAP payments above the $20 threshold in future 
years, savings would decrease. The Department did not consider any 
alternatives to this rule because the language in the Agricultural Act 
of 2014 was very specific and prescriptive regarding the implementation 
dates and the payment threshold required.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601-612) requires Agencies 
to analyze the impact of rulemaking on small entities and consider 
alternatives that would minimize any significant impacts on a 
substantial number of small entities. Pursuant to that review, it has 
been certified that this proposed rule would not have a significant 
impact on a substantial number of small entities. State agencies that 
administer SNAP will be affected to the extent they implement the 
changes to program operations.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA), Public 
Law 104-4, establishes requirements for Federal agencies to assess the 
effects of their regulatory actions on State, local and Tribal 
governments and the private sector. Under section 202 of the UMRA, the 
Department generally must prepare a written statement, including a cost 
benefit analysis, for proposed and final rules with ``Federal 
mandates'' that may result in expenditures by State, local or Tribal 
governments, in the aggregate, or the private sector, of $100 million 
or more in any one year. When such a statement is needed for a rule, 
Section 205 of the UMRA generally requires the Department to identify 
and consider a reasonable number of regulatory alternatives and adopt 
the most cost effective or least burdensome alternative that achieves 
the objectives of the rule.
    This proposed rule does not contain Federal mandates (under the 
regulatory provisions of Title II of the UMRA) for State, local and 
Tribal governments or the private sector of $100 million or more in any 
one year. Thus, the rule is not subject to the requirements of sections 
202 and 205 of the UMRA.

Executive Order 12372

    SNAP is listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance 
Programs under 10.551. For the reasons set forth in the final rule in 7 
CFR part 3015, subpart V, and related Notice (48 FR 29115, June 24, 
1983), this program is included in the scope of Executive Order 12372, 
which requires intergovernmental consultation with State and local 
officials.

Federalism Summary Impact Statement

    Executive Order 13132 requires Federal agencies to consider the 
impact of their regulatory actions on State and local governments. 
Where such actions have federalism implications, agencies are directed 
to provide a statement for inclusion in the preamble to the regulations 
describing the agency's considerations in terms of the three categories 
called for under Section (6)(b)(2)(B) of Executive Order 13121.
    The Department has determined that this proposed rule does not have 
Federalism implications. This rule does not impose substantial or 
direct compliance costs on State and local governments. Therefore, 
under Section 6(b) of the Executive Order, a Federalism summary impact 
statement is not required.

Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform

    This proposed rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, 
Civil Justice Reform. This rule, when published as a final rule, is 
intended to have preemptive effect with respect to any State or local 
laws, regulations or policies which conflict with its provisions or 
which would otherwise impede its full and timely implementation. This 
rule is not intended to have retroactive effect unless so specified in 
the Effective Dates section of the final rule. Prior to any judicial 
challenge to the provisions of the final rule, all applicable 
administrative procedures must be exhausted.

Civil Rights Impact Analysis

    The Department has reviewed this proposed rule in accordance with 
the Department Regulation 4300-4, ``Civil Rights Impact Analysis,'' to 
identify and address any major civil rights impacts the rule might have 
on minorities, women, and persons with disabilities. After a careful 
review of the rule's intent and provisions, the Department has 
determined that this rule will not in any way limit or reduce the 
ability of protected classes of individuals. The Department has 
reviewed this proposed rule in accordance with USDA Regulation 4300-4, 
``Civil Rights Impact Analysis,'' to identify any major civil rights 
impacts the rule might have on

[[Page 23193]]

program participants on the basis of age, race, color, national origin, 
sex, or disability.
    The changes to SNAP regulations in this proposed rule are required 
by law and are not intended to limit the participation of any group of 
individuals in the SNAP program.
    Impact on Households: This mandatory change will impact all 
households uniformly, regardless of status in a protected class. 
Although LIHEAP and other similar energy assistance program payments 
are issued by agencies other than USDA, FNS understands that these 
payments are not disseminated to specific portions of the population 
based on status in a protected class. Nor does FNS have information 
indicating that particular protected classes receive these payments.
    In States that do not provide minimum LIHEAP payments greater than 
$20, the new legislation may affect the number of households that 
qualify for the HCSUA and may cause a reduction to those households' 
monthly SNAP benefit amounts. However, households that previously 
qualified for the HCSUA based on the receipt of a $20 or less LIHEAP 
payment may still qualify for the HCSUA if they incur heating or 
cooling expenses. Only those households without actual heating and 
cooling costs will experience a benefit change due to the 
implementation of this provision of the Agricultural Act of 2014.
    Further, FNS specifically prohibits the State and local government 
agencies that administer the program from engaging in discriminatory 
actions. Discrimination in any aspect of program administration is 
prohibited by SNAP regulations, the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, the 
Age Discrimination Act of 1975, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 
of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Title VI of 
the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Where State agencies have options, and 
they choose to implement a certain provision, they must implement it in 
such a way that it complies with these requirements and the regulations 
at 7 CFR 272.6.
    Impact on State Agencies: State agencies have already implemented 
this requirement, and have already completed necessary changes to 
eligibility systems, manuals, and training procedures for staff. Also, 
although State agencies had some flexibility to stagger the application 
of this provision to ongoing caseloads, at this point, the new 
requirements are being used to determine program eligibility for all 
new applicants and ongoing cases.
    Training and Outreach: SNAP is administered by State agencies which 
communicate program information and program rules based on Federal law 
and regulations to those within their jurisdiction, including 
individuals from protected classes that may be affected by program 
changes. After the passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014, FNS worked 
with State agencies to ensure their understanding of the changes 
required by Section 4006. FNS released an implementation memorandum on 
this provision with all State agencies on March 5, 2014. In response to 
various State agencies' questions on LIHEAP-related issues, FNS shared 
guidance through a Question & Answer memorandum on April 7, 2014 and a 
second Q&A memorandum on August 20, 2014 to address the State agencies' 
questions and concerns and ensure clarity on requirements for 
implementing the requirement.
    FNS also maintains a public Web site that provides basic 
information on each program, including SNAP. Interested persons, 
including potential applicants, applicants, and participants can find 
information about these changes as well as State agency contact 
information, downloadable applications, and links to State agency Web 
sites and online applications.
    After careful review of the rule's intent and provisions, and the 
characteristics of SNAP households and individual participants, the 
Department has determined that this proposed rule will not have a 
disparate impact on any group or class of persons.

Executive Order 13175

    This proposed rule has been reviewed in accordance with the 
requirements of Executive Order 13175, ``Consultation and Coordination 
with Indian Tribal Governments.'' Executive Order 13175 requires 
Federal agencies to consult and coordinate with tribes on a government-
to-government basis on policies that have tribal implications, 
including regulations, legislative comments or proposed legislation, 
and other policy statements or actions that have substantial direct 
effects on one or more Indian tribes, on the relationship between the 
Federal Government and Indian tribes or on the distribution of power 
and responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian tribes.
    FNS has assessed the impact of this proposed rule on Indian tribes 
and determined that this rule does not, to our knowledge, have tribal 
implications that require tribal consultation under E.O. 13175. On 
February 18, 2015, the agency held a webinar for tribal participation 
and comments. No comments were received. If a Tribe requests 
consultation, FNS will work with the Office of Tribal Relations to 
ensure meaningful consultation is provided where changes, additions, 
and modifications identified herein are not expressly mandated by 
Congress.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. Chap. 35; 5 CFR 
13200) requires that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approve 
all collections of information by a Federal agency before they can be 
implemented. This proposed rule does not contain information collection 
requirements subject to approval of OMB under the Paperwork Reduction 
Act of 1994. State agencies were required to make minimal, one-time 
changes to their eligibility systems, manuals, and training procedures 
for staff by May 5, 2014 to comply with the provisions of the statute. 
Other minimal burdens imposed on State agencies by this proposed rule 
are usual and customary within the course of their normal business 
activities.

E-Government Act Compliance

    The Department is committed to complying with the E-Government Act, 
to promote the use of the Internet and other information technologies 
to provide increased opportunities for citizen access to Government 
information and services, and for other purposes.

List of Subjects in 7 CFR Part 273

    Determining household eligibility and benefit levels, Income and 
deductions.

    Accordingly, 7 CFR part 273 is proposed to be amended as follows:

PART 273--CERTIFICATION OF ELIGIBLE HOUSEHOLDS

0
1. The authority citation for part 273 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 7 U.S.C. 2011-2036.

0
2. In Sec.  273.9, revise paragraph (d)(6)(iii)(C) to read as follows:


Sec.  273.9  Income and deductions.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (6) * * *
    (iii) * * *
    (C)(1) A standard with a heating or cooling component must be made 
available to the following households:
    (i) Households that incur heating or cooling expenses separately 
from their rent or mortgage;

[[Page 23194]]

    (ii) Households in rental housing who are billed by their landlords 
on the basis of individual usage or who are charged a flat rate 
separately from their rent. However, households in public housing units 
which have central utility meters and which charge households only for 
excess heating or cooling costs are not entitled to a standard that 
includes heating or cooling costs based only on the charge for excess 
usage, unless the State agency mandates the use of standard utility 
allowances in accordance with paragraph (d)(6)(iii)(E) of this section; 
and
    (iii) Households that receive a payment or on behalf of which a 
payment was made under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Act of 
1981 (LIHEAA) or other similar energy assistance program, if in the 
current month or in the immediately preceding 12 months and such 
payment was greater than $20 annually. Other similar energy assistance 
programs are separate home energy assistance programs designed to 
provide heating or cooling assistance through a payment received by or 
made on behalf of low-income households. A payment received by a 
household or made on behalf of a household under LIHEAA or other 
similar energy assistance program must be quantifiable in order to 
confer eligibility for the heating and cooling standard utility 
allowance. A quantifiable payment is one that the State agency 
quantifies, in dollars. The State agency shall document the date and 
receipt of a payment made under LIHEAA or other similar energy 
assistance program to ensure the payment was received in the current 
month or the immediately preceding 12 months and exceeds $20 annually. 
In determining a household's eligibility for the HCSUA, State agencies 
shall not consider anticipated receipt of a payment to be an actual 
payment received under the LIHEAA or other similar energy assistance 
program. However, for purposes of this subclause, a State agency may 
consider a payment under the LIHEAA or other similar energy assistance 
program to be received by the household or on behalf of the household 
if the household is scheduled to receive the payment in the current 
month. In a case where a payment is scheduled to be received in the 
current month and the payment is not actually made within that month, 
the State agency is responsible for determining whether an overissuance 
has occurred and, if so, establishing a claim against the household for 
any benefits issued in error in accordance with the requirements at 7 
CFR 273.18. If a household that has received a payment made under the 
LIHEAA or other similar energy assistance program or such a payment has 
been made on a household's behalf and the household subsequently splits 
into two SNAP households, the State agency must determine which one 
household is eligible for the heating and cooling standard utility 
allowance as a result of receiving that payment.
    (2) A household that has both an occupied home and an unoccupied 
home is only entitled to one standard.
* * * * *
0
3. In Sec.  273.10, revise paragraph (d)(6) to read as follows:


Sec.  273.10  Determining household eligibility and benefit levels.

* * * * *
    (d) * * *
    (6) Energy Assistance Payments. The State agency shall prorate 
energy assistance payments as provided for in Sec.  273.9(d) of this 
part over the entire heating or cooling season the payment is intended 
to cover.
* * * * *

    Dated: April 12, 2016.
Kevin Concannon,
Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services.
[FR Doc. 2016-09114 Filed 4-19-16; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-30-P