USDA Issues Final Rule on CEP Eligibility

September 26, 2023

Today, USDA issued a final rule on changing the eligibility threshold for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). The new minimum Identified Student Percentage (ISP) that districts need to participate is 25—brought down from the current 40. This rule will go into effect on October 26, 2023.

Accordingly, USDA also revised two other parts of the program: 1) organizations participating in CEP are required to have ISPs of less than 25% but equal to or greater than 15% in year 4 of the CEP cycle to elect CEP for a fifth year, or grace year; and 2) “nearly eligible LEAs and schools will now have ISPs of Nearly eligible LEAs and schools have ISPs of less than 25% but equal to or greater than 15%.

Schools must have the right ISP by April 1 prior to the year they wish to participate. As this time, it seems the earliest schools will be able to take advantage of this change will be SY2024-2025 – opting in by April 1, 2024.

USDA does not have the authority to increase the multiplier beyond the current 1.6 so it will remain the same. AASA will continue to advocate for Congress to increase the CEP multiplier to expand the program and ensure it is financially viable for districts to participate. Additionally, we are cognizant of CEP’s impact on the availability of Free and Reduced Priced Lunch (FRPL) data and are working with partners in DC to identify alternative poverty measures that are not reliant on school meal programs for data. However, in response to recent concerns, it is important to note that FRPL does not determine Title I allocations. Those allocations are based on Small Area Income Poverty Estimate (SAIPE) data which is pulled from the census.