USDA E-Rate Guidance for Community Eligibility Provision Schools

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a memorandum last week containing Updated E-Rate Guidance for Schools Electing Community Eligibility.  The memo summarizes the new E-rate modernization rule permitting the use of the CEP multiplier (currently 1.6x) to calculate the number of eligible students in a school, or group of schools, providing free meals under the Community Eligibility Provision (“CEP”).

The calculation is based on the percentage of students deemed eligible for free meals through direct certification, most commonly as the result of their families’ participation in their state’s SNAP program (previously referred to as the Food Stamps program).  In USDA parlance, this direct certification percentage is called the Identified Student Percentage (“ISP”).  For free meal reimbursement purposes — and now for E-rate discount rate purposes — total student eligibility is calculated as 1.6 x ISP, with a cap of 100%.

The 1.6x CEP multiplier serves as an estimated adjustment to the ISP, in recognition that the direct certification process does not identify all of a school’s eligible students.  USDA rules permit the use of a CEP multiplier ranging from 1.3x to 1.6x.  Over time, with improvements in the direct certification process, the CEP multiplier may be reduced, but the USDA “has no plans to do so at this time.”

School districts, with some CEP schools and some non-CEP schools, will have to calculate total student and total eligible student counts for both groups of schools, adding them together to get a districtwide student eligibility percentage that will determine the district’s discount rate.  We encourage districts to share their discount rate calculations with the E-rate contacts at their local libraries for which this data may otherwise not be easily accessible.

Updated E-Rate Guidance for Schools Electing Community Eligibility  http://e-ratecentral.com/files/bulletins/SP08-2015.pdf

USDA Community Eligibility Provision  http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/community-eligibility-provision

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