Help us provide the best education possible for your children. Filling out this form only takes a few minutes. It will help your community, your school and your property taxes.
The Household Income Form is also available in pdf for download.
- Arabic Household Income Form
- French (Canada) Household Income Form
- Nepali Household Income Form
- Somali Household Income Form
- Spanish (United States) Household Income Form
- Swahili Household Income Form
The Household Income Form should be used by the following programs/schools to collect household income information for education reporting purposes:
- Independent schools that do not participate in the National School Lunch or Breakfast Programs (NSLP)
- Pre-Kindergarten programs, if students do not have access to a school meals program
- Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools
- Provision 2 schools, except in a “base year” when they must use the School Meals Application
Income information provided on this form may not be used to confer student eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals. However, it may be used in determining eligibility for other state and federal education programs that benefit the student, as well as the school (e.g., SAT waivers, E-rate).
Please see the FAQs for further information on the many uses of the information provided through this form, which schools should use it, etc. You also may contact AOE.SLDSSupportGroup@vermont.gov.
School officials should make every effort to encourage all households to complete this form. To support your outreach efforts, templates communications materials will be provided later in the summer.
Q1: Children already receive meals at no charge at school. Why are households still being asked to complete the School Meals Application (also often referred to as the National School Lunch or NSLP application, the Free or Reduced-Price Meals application, or the FRL form) or Household Income Forms (HIF forms)?
The Vermont Universal Meals law ensures that students receive meals through their schools at no charge. However, this does not change the Agency of Education’s need to collect student-level household income information. Many state and federal programs require this information to determine eligibility for their programs and services.
By completing either the School Meals Application or the Household Income Form (HIF), as appropriate to each school’s situation (see question 6 below), schools, LEAs and the Agency of Education (AOE) are able to determine eligibility for additional programs that students, schools and LEAs may qualify for such as Early College waivers, eligibility to operate a Schoolwide Title I program and e-rate eligibility.
Such information also is necessary for required federal equity (i.e., disaggregated student performance) reporting and for important fiscal reasons, including pupil weighting in the school finance formula and drawdown of maximum federal funds for school meals, which reduces the state share of Universal Meals costs.
Q2: Can we require households to complete School Meals Applications or HIF forms?
No. Federal law explicitly prohibits requiring households to complete School Meals Applications and there is no state law that gives the AOE, schools or LEAs authority to require families to complete the HIF form.
Q3: What support is the AOE providing to assist schools in getting families to return School Meals Applications and HIF forms?
The AOE is developing several resources that will be released later this summer to help communicate how completing the appropriate form (see question 6) benefits students, schools and communities. In addition, the AOE encourages schools and LEAs to consider incentivizing form completion through a variety of “fun” and encouraging activities and means. Schools and LEAs have shared some of those means on Coffee & Conversation calls.
Q4: Can a student be denied school meals if their parent/guardian has not completed a School Meals Application or HIF form?
No. Regardless of whether a family chooses to complete a form, if their school is participating in the Vermont Universal Meals Program, their children still must receive meals at no charge at their school.
Q5: Why can’t the AOE get household income information from another source such as taxes?
The AOE has explored other alternatives sources of household income information. However, none, including state and federal tax information, provides the information required for federal reporting or educational program eligibility purposes. For example, many families do not file income taxes, and tax forms do not count sources of household income such as income from public benefit programs or earnings of non-related household members, which are required to be included in household income as defined by the federal rules governing education and meals programs.
The AOE will continue to explore alternative ways of collecting household income information without having to ask families to complete applications/forms. The AOE also continues to advocate with the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture and with Congress to come up with a nationwide metric for poverty that does not rely on individual families providing household income information through forms.
Q6: Which form should a particular school request that households complete?
USDA School Meals Applications (aka National School Lunch or NSLP applications, Free or Reduced-Price Meals applications, or FRL forms) are used in the following situations:
- Public and independent schools operating their school meals program under Provision 2 in “Base Years” only
- Independent schools operating their school meals program using a traditional “pricing” model
Household Income Forms (HIF) are used when School Meals Applications may not be used including:
- Public and independent schools operating their school meals program under the Community Eligibility Provision or CEP
- Public schools operating their school meals program under Provision 2 in non-“Base” years
- Independent Schools not operating an NSLP school meals program Pre-Kindergarten programs if the students do not have access to a school meals program
Q7: We have schools operating CEP and Provision 2 meals programs in our SU/SD. Which form should we ask our families to complete and what if we get multiple applications/forms for the same household?
Your schools operating their meals programs through Provision 2 will very likely need to establish updated “base year” claiming percentages this fall. Doing so requires that the NSLP School Meals Application be completed by the parents/guardians of students attending those schools. (There is an exception to this requirement to establish a new base year, but we expect it will apply to a very limited number of schools. Please see page 12 of the Universal School Meals SY 2023-24 Implementation Guidance for more information about this requirement and exception.)
The School Meals Application “trumps” the Household Income Form, which is only used to gather student-level household income information when School Meals Applications may not be used (e.g., in CEP schools). In addition, households only need to complete one application or form for the entire household. If a School Meals Application is required by a school attended by any student in the household, that should be the form that is completed for the household since only that application can establish free or reduced-price meal eligibility. So, for example, if a School Meals application is collected for a student in your high school which is operating a Provision 2 meals program, HIF forms or School Meals Applications do not need to be collected from the other students in that household who attend your other CEP or Provision 2 schools.
We realize it is hard to track centrally which students are being asked to complete (and have returned!) which forms in multiple schools. If more than one form is submitted for a household (which likely will happen in many instances in the coming school year), that is fine. If there is a question of which information to report for the students in that household, then our advice is always to defer to your SFA determining officials to resolve the issue. They have received training in a “hierarchy” of determination of school meal eligibility status (i.e., free eligible, reduced-price eligible, etc.) and the cause of the status (i.e., SNAP, Medicaid, foster care, extended eligibility, etc.) and can resolve such issues in terms of how to report meal eligibility and income status for the individual children in the household.
Q8: Can HIF forms be used to establish free or reduced-price meal eligibility?
No. Although they collect similar information, by federal law, only the School Meals Application can be used to establish free or reduced-price meal eligibility.
Q9: Can’t we just use the School Meals Application for all our schools?
No. School Meals Applications (aka National School Lunch or NSLP applications, Free or Reduced-Price Meals applications, or FRL forms) may only be used when required to establish student eligibility for free or reduced-price meal status. However, if household income information is collected for this purpose, then it may be used for other federal and state education program purposes.
Q10: What if we have conflicting household income information on a student or household?
Schools/LEAs are likely to encounter such discrepancies, particularly if a family has children attending schools operating different kinds of school meals programs. They should rely on their School Food Authority Determining Officials to help them resolve any discrepancies between data sources. Determining Officials have received extensive training on the “hierarchy” for determining meal eligibility (free, reduced or paid) and household income status. If they still cannot resolve the discrepancy, they may reach out to the State Director of Child Nutrition Programs, Rosie Krueger at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Q11: Do households need to fill out a separate form for each child?
No. One Household Income Form or School Meals Application is sufficient for all students in the household.
Additional guidance for completing Household Income Forms only:
For guidance on completing the School Meals Application, please refer families to their school’s SFA Determining Official or to the 2023 version of School Meals Application Instructions.
Q12: Who should be included as members of the household?
Household size is the total number of people, including all children and adults, related and unrelated, that live within a household and share income and expenses. If there are other people who are economically independent (for example, adult children who are economically self-supporting and do not share in household support or expenses, or renters who pay a pro-rated share of expenses, they should not be included).
Q13: What if the household income is not always the same?
The parent/guardian completing the form should list the amount that household normally receives. For example, if the household normally makes $1000 each month, but missed some work last month and only made $900, put down that the household made $1000 per month. If the household normally gets overtime, they should include it, but they should not include it if the overtime work is only available sometimes. If a job is lost or hours or wages have been reduced, they should use their current income.
Q14: The household is in the military. Should they include the housing allowance as income?
If an off-base housing allowance is received, it must be included as income. However, if the housing is part of the Military Housing Privatization Initiative, they should not include the housing allowance as income.
Q15: A spouse is deployed to a combat zone. Is his/her combat pay counted as income?
No. If the combat pay is received in addition to a household member’s basic pay because of his/her deployment and it wasn’t received before s/he was deployed, combat pay should not be counted as income.
Q16: Does child income need to be included?
If it is not used to support the household, child income does not need to be included.
Q17: How should students’ income status (NSLEG) be coded in the 4_ps_enroll submission files for Ed Fusion?
First, and most importantly, data managers should rely on information provided by their SFA’s determining officials (see question 9 above).
The HIF does not distinguish between household income at or below 130% of the federal poverty level (FPL) and at or below 185% of FPL. Therefore, for data reporting purposes, any student identified solely though the HIF as residing in a household with income at or below 185% of FPL should be identified with code 02.