SNAP benefits for eligible students during the COVID-19 pandemic (EA ID: GENERAL-21-11) (Updated April 5, 2021)

Author
Federal Student Aid
Subject
SNAP benefits for eligible students during the COVID-19 pandemic (EA ID: GENERAL-21-11) (Updated April 5, 2021)

Note

On April 5, 2021, we updated the second bullet of the fifth paragraph under “Information for Institutions of Higher Education: Verification” to include additional communications on which verification of an EFC may be found.

We are pleased to share with our community the following information about students who are enrolled in postsecondary education and qualify for SNAP benefits during the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.

Other than statutory and regulatory requirements included in the document, the contents of this guidance do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.

A change in federal law has made more students temporarily eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This Electronic Announcement provides information about which students may be eligible under the new, temporary exemptions, what information students or State SNAP agencies may request from institutions of higher education, and where institutions of higher education can get more information.

Background on New, Temporary Student Exemptions:

Under regular SNAP rules, students enrolled at least half-time in an institution of higher education are ineligible for SNAP unless they meet one of the exemptions. However, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, temporarily expands SNAP eligibility to allow students who either:

  1. Are eligible to participate in State or Federally financed work study during the regular academic year, as determined by the institution of higher education, or
  2. Have an expected family contribution (EFC) of 0 in the current academic year.

Beginning January 16, 2021, students who meet one of the two criteria outlined above may receive SNAP if they meet all other financial and non-financial SNAP eligibility criteria. The new, temporary exemptions will be in effect until 30 days after the COVID-19 public health emergency is lifted. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will update this webpage when the COVID-19 public health emergency ends.

Information for Institutions of Higher Education:

Verification

Prior to certifying a SNAP household, State SNAP agencies must verify any household statement that is questionable and would impact eligibility and/or benefit amounts. State SNAP agencies have the ability to determine sources of verification for student exemptions.

FNS is encouraging State SNAP agencies to work with State departments of education to identify appropriate sources of verification and communicate the verification process to institutions of higher education, as needed.

State SNAP agencies may contact institutions of higher education to request verification of students’ eligibility for work study or EFC of 0. Institutions are reminded of the permissibility, with prior written consent of the student, to provide a student’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) data (including aid awarded to the student based on the student’s calculated EFC from the FAFSA form for the respective award year) to a State or entity for the purposes of applying for or receiving State or Federal means-tested benefits, which include SNAP benefits. This is outlined in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as well as the implementing regulations (34 CFR part 99) and Section 312 of the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 115-245) as it pertains to FAFSA data use and organizations assisting the applicant in applying for and receiving Federal, State, local, or Tribal assistance, that is designated by the applicant to assist the applicant in applying for and receiving financial assistance for any component of the applicant’s cost of attendance (defined in section 472 of the HEA) at that institution.

For additional resources on FAFSA data sharing, we encourage you to visit the Department of Education’s resources: https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/audience/school-officials-post-secondary

Informed by consultation with the Department of Education, FNS is providing the following general guidance to State SNAP agencies on what types of documentation may be available to States to verify student eligibility exemption criteria.

  • Verification of eligibility to participate in a work study program (including the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program) may be found on the financial aid award letter provided to the student by the institution of higher education, or in a letter from the institution of higher education provided to the State at the request of the student.
  • Verification of an expected EFC of 0 may be found on a financial aid award letter or Student Aid Report (SAR), in a letter from the institution of higher education provided to the State at the request of the student, or in an email communication provided by Federal Student Aid informing students of these potential benefits and confirming that they have an expected EFC of 0.
  • In addition, all students receiving the maximum Federal Pell Grant have an EFC of 0. In the 2020-21 award year, the maximum Pell Grants are $3,172 per semester for students enrolled full-time, $2,379 per semester for students enrolled three-quarter-time, and $1,586 per semester for students enrolled half-time. Verification of the Pell Grant amount may be found on the financial aid award letter and may be used as verification that a student has an EFC of 0. However, not all students with an EFC of 0 receive a Pell Grant. For instance, students may not receive an award if they do not meet other student eligibility requirements such as completing Federal verification.

Eligibility for State or Federally Financed Work Study:

Under SNAP regular rules, only students who actually participate in State or Federally financed work study are eligible. The new, temporary exemption expands SNAP eligibility to students who are eligible to participate in work study during the regular school year, without the requirement that they actually participate. For the purposes of this temporary exemption, States may consider all students eligible if they are eligible for work study and attend an institution of higher education that participates in a State or Federal work study program (including the FFWS program). The institution of higher education makes the determination as to whether a student is eligible to participate in a work study program.

Expected Family Contribution of 0 (Zero):

Students must have an EFC of 0 in the current academic year to meet this exemption. The EFC is calculated for award years on a July 1-June 30 calendar, but institutions of higher education may have academic years that vary from this specific timeframe. For purposes of this temporary exemption, the EFC of 0 must be for the current academic year, as defined by the institution of higher education, in which the individual is enrolled.

Further Information

Students should contact their local SNAP offices to find out how to apply, or for other questions about their SNAP eligibility. State SNAP agencies administer the program, process applications, and determine eligibility. Contact information for State SNAP agencies and local offices can be found in FNS’ SNAP State Directory.

Institutions of higher education with questions about student SNAP eligibility, including the new, temporary exemptions, should contact their State SNAP agency.

The Department of Education encourages institutions of higher education to coordinate with campus stakeholders to inform their student population of this benefit during the COVID-19 emergency.

More information about the new, temporary exemptions can be found here.

The new, temporary exemptions do not impact any other student exemptions. All current student eligibility exemptions remain in effect. Students must meet all other SNAP financial and non-financial criteria in order to be eligible for benefits.

More information about student eligibility for SNAP can be found here.

More information about SNAP eligibility can be found here.

Last Modified: 04/16/2021