Flexibilility on Time-Frames for Fair Hearings for SNAP Due to COVID-19

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05/20/2020

Information Memo

Summary

  • The information in this memorandum applies only to the appeals process under the Bureau of Hearings and has no impact at the Family Community Resource Center (FCRC) level. There is no change in policy or procedures for the FCRC.
  • Any FCRC or Central Office actions, inactions, decisions, determinations, response to a report form, or any issue of policy that a person disagrees with may be appealed. SNAP federal regulations require that within 60 days of receipt of a request for a fair hearing, a hearing must be conducted, a decision reached, and the household must be notified of the decision. The Bureau of Hearings may use alternative means to conduct hearings, such as telephone or video conference, when possible, to meet these standard required time frames.
  • The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) requested some flexibility in meeting the time-frames and was granted Food and Nutrition Services' (FNS) approval to extend, as needed, the fair hearings process up to 120 days from:
    • receipt of the request for fair hearings that were already in process; or
    • for which requests are received from March 01 through May 31, 2020.
  • FNS determined that approval of this flexibility is appropriate due to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.

This information memorandum is to inform staff of FNS' approval to allow the Bureau of Hearings flexibility as to the time-frames in which a customer must receive a final decision to their fair hearing request when the standard time-frames cannot be reasonably met during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The information in this memorandum applies only to the appeal process under the Bureau of Hearings and has no impact at the FCRC level. There is no change to policy or procedure for the FCRC.

Required Standard Time-frames

  • SNAP federal regulations require that within 60 days of receipt of a request for a fair hearing, a hearing must be conducted, a decision reached and the household must be notified of the decision. The Bureau of Hearings may use alternative means to conduct hearings, such as telephone or video conference, when possible, to meet these standard required time frames.
  • IDHS requested some flexibility in meeting these time-frames and was granted FNS approval to extend as needed, the fair hearings process up to 120 days from:
    • receipt of the request for fair hearings that were already in process; or
    • for which requests are received from March 01 through May 31, 2020.

Flexibility in Time-frames

  • Currently, an appeal can be withdrawn by an appellant:
    • in writing or orally with the Bureau of Hearings; or
    • via the ABE Appeal Portal (https://abe.illinois.gov/abe/access/appeals).
  • Written withdrawals include:
    • a signed Request to Withdraw Appeal (Form 65); or
    • an email to DHS.BAH@illinois.gov; or
    • a withdrawal via the ABE Appeal Portal.
  • When the Bureau of Hearings receives an oral SNAP withdrawal, a notice is sent to the customer to confirm their withdrawal.
  • Under the waiver approval the time frame for sending notices confirming oral withdrawal requests is extended from 10 days to up to 30 days from receipt of a request received during this time period, March 01 through May 31, 2020.
  • FNS determined that approval of this flexibility is appropriate due to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. The approval is for a period of 3 months, effective March 01, 2020, through May 31, 2020.

[signed copy on file]

Grace B. Hou

Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services

Forms referenced:

Form 65