FAA5.I Determining Benefits : 03 Expenses : D NA Utility Expenses and Allowances
NA Utility Expenses and Allowances
Information on this page refers to the Nutrition Assistance program
The NA budgetary unit is allowed a utility allowance based on the budgetary unit's obligation to pay utility expenses.
Policy
The utility expenses billed separate from or itemized with rent or mortgage payments on a regular basis are used to determine the allowable utility allowance for the NA budgetary unit. A utility allowance amount is used to allow a standard amount in place of the actual utility expenses. The utility allowance is also used to calculate the shelter deduction.
The amount of the utility allowance is determined by both of the following:
Verified allowable utility expenses
The size of the NA budgetary unit
NOTE Disqualified participants are included when determining the size of the NA budgetary unit.
Budgetary units billed for utility expenses are allowed one of the following utility allowances:
Telephone Utility Allowance (TUA)
To qualify for the TUA, the NA budgetary unit must have the obligation to pay only a telephone expense.
Standard Utility Allowance (SUA)
To qualify for the SUA, the NA budgetary unit must have the obligation to pay for any allowable utility expense other than a telephone expense.
NOTE When utility expenses are claimed for more than one residence in the same month, only one utility allowance is allowed.
(See Utility Allowance Current Amount for the current amount of the TUA and SUA.
Shared Utilities
The budgetary unit is entitled to a utility allowance based on utility expenses verified when either situation occurs:
More than one budgetary unit lives in the same residence and shares utility expenses.
One budgetary unit shares a housing unit with others who do not receive NA.
A utility allowance is allowed regardless of the percentage of the utilities paid.
When one budgetary unit pays the expense and receives a fixed monthly amount from another budgetary unit for utilities, each budgetary unit is allowed a utility allowance.
When budgetary units that incur utility expenses live in separate housing units (house, apartment, trailer, etc.) and share a meter with each other, each budgetary unit with an obligation to pay is entitled to a utility allowance.
NOTE This situation is common when two separate housing units are located on the same property or when the homeowner rents out a separate apartment within their residence.
Allowable NA Utility Expense Types
See the following for more information on the allowable utility expenses for NA:
Coal
Oil
Wood
Coal
The cost of coal used as a utility, billed separate from or itemized with rent or mortgage payments, is allowable.
Electricity
Electricity service expenses billed separate from or itemized with rent or mortgage payments, are allowable.
Energy Assistance Utility Expense
Participants may have some or all of their utilities paid with Energy Assistance, previously known as negative rent, when one of the following applies:
They live in public housing and their rent is zero
They live in Section 8 Project based Rental Housing
They are recipients of a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher
Energy Assistance is either paid to the participant or directly to the utility company as a vendor payment.
When Energy Assistance covers all of the participant’s utilities, the NA budgetary unit does not qualify for the utility allowance because they have no out of pocket utility expense.
However, when the budgetary unit has utility expenses and receives Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) payments, the budgetary unit qualifies for the utility allowance even when the payment covers all expenses or is paid as a vendor payment.
NOTE When the payment is more than the utility expense, the remaining amount may be considered income. (See Energy Assistance Payments when the payment is more than the utility expense.)
Garbage, Sewer, and Trash
The following utility expenses billed separate from or itemized with rent or mortgage payments, are allowable:
Garbage
Sewer
Trash
Portable toilet rental when no bathroom exists
Septic maintenance
Gas and Propane
Gas, propane, and propane tank rental utility expenses billed separate from or itemized with rent or mortgage payments, are allowable.
Oil
The cost of oil used as a utility, billed separate from or itemized with rent or mortgage payments, is allowable.
Utility Installation Fees
Initial utility installation fees may be an allowable utility expense in the month the expense is billed.
The utility installation fee is an allowable NA Utility Expense when all of the following occur:
The utility installation fee is for an initial installation of a utility.
The utility installation is performed by the utility provider.
NOTE One-time deposits are not an allowable NA Utility Expense.
Examples of utility installation fees include the following:
Electrical wiring
Gas pipes
Septic tanks
Solar panels
Water pipes
Telephone
Telephone expenses are allowable when the budgetary unit has an obligation to pay any portion of the telephone expense. This includes the following:
When the expense is billed separate from or itemized with rent or mortgage.
When the participant is responsible for the charges (even when it is billed to another person).
When the budgetary unit participates in the Lifeline Assistance Program, a telephone expense is allowable when one or both of the following apply:
The discount program does not pay the expense in full
Extra airtime is purchased after exhausting free minutes
Water
The following utility expenses billed separate from or itemized with rent or mortgage payments are allowable:
Water services expense.
Well maintenance expenses including the following:
Chemicals for water treatment
Service and repair
The expense of purchasing water when onsite water is not available.
Wood
The cost for wood used as a utility, billed separate from or itemized with rent or mortgage payments, is allowable.
NOTE Do not allow costs connected with cutting wood such as cutting permits, gas for chain saws or trucks, and equipment such as chain saws.
Verification
Participant statement verification can be used as the primary verification for utility expense obligation when no other verification is available at the time of the interview or change, except when either of the following occur:
The expense is in another person’s name who is outside the budgetary unit.
The participant’s statement is questionable(g).
Utility expense obligation must be verified only when any of the following occurs:
New application
Renewal application
When a reported change in the expense or address is received (See Effecting Changes for change information)
When the expense amount is questionable
Utility Allowance Verification
To be eligible for the Standard Utility Allowance (SUA), the obligation of only one utility expense that is not a telephone expense must be verified.
When participant statement verification cannot be used, the following can be used to verify the utility allowance:
A utility bill
A landlord’s statement when the statement identifies that the landlord is paid an amount for utilities separate from the amount paid for rent
A lease agreement that shows a portion of the amount paid is used to pay specific utilities
A Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) payment
When the utility expense is billed to someone outside the budgetary unit, one of the following must be used to verify who is responsible to pay the expense:
A collateral contact (CC) with the person billed for the expense
A signed statement from the person billed for the expense
NOTE The CC documentation or the signed statement must include the type of utility expense and must state that the budgetary unit has the responsibility to pay the utility expense.
Telephone Expense Verification
When participant statement verification cannot be used, the following are examples of what can be used as verification for the telephone expense obligation:
The telephone bill or proof of payment for minutes attached to a specific device
A receipt from the cell phone service carrier
A screenshot from the cell phone (when the customer only makes payments through the device)
An email from the cellular phone service provider verifying the expense
Energy Assistance
When a budgetary unit receives energy assistance, all of the following must be verified:
Rental obligation amount
Utility allowance amount
Utility reimbursement amount
Energy assistance amount
Legal Authorities
7 CFR 273.9(d)
7 CFR 273.10(d)
7 CFR 273.9(d)(6)(ii)(c)
last revised 03/28/2022