PREPROPOSAL STATEMENT OF INQUIRY
SOCIAL AND HEALTH SERVICES
(Economic Services Administration)
Subject of Possible Rule Making: The department is considering amending utility allowances for the Washington Basic Food program (Basic Food) and Washington state combined application program (WASHCAP) under WAC 388-450-0195 Utility allowances for Basic Food programs.
Statutes Authorizing the Agency to Adopt Rules on this Subject: RCW 74.04.050, 74.04.055, 74.04.057, 74.04.500, 74.04.510, 74.08.090.
Reasons Why Rules on this Subject may be Needed and What They Might Accomplish: The United States Department of Energy projects that the cost of heating homes with natural gas or heating oil will be 30% to 50% higher this winter than last. As a result, people receiving food assistance are facing monthly fuel bills that, in some cases, are hundreds of dollars higher than last winter.
Utility increases of this magnitude could have harsh effects for low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities. People on law and fixed incomes will face difficult choices between heating their homes and keeping up with their other expenses like buying groceries, putting gasoline in their cars, and affording prescription drugs and other medical costs.
Federal guidelines provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) indicate that states may use more recent actual utility costs to request adjustments to utility allowances for the food stamp program. These utility allowances are used to determine a household's shelter deduction that can result in an increase in food stamp benefits.
The department will evaluate the benefit for WASHCAP and Basic Food participants in Washington state if the department were to update utility allowances outside the normally scheduled adjustment to this standard each October. To make this determination, the department will use federal guidance regarding updating utility allowances for recent changes in utility costs and the December 2005 consumer price index provided by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Other Federal and State Agencies that Regulate this Subject and the Process Coordinating the Rule with These Agencies: The United States Department of Agriculture, FNS publishes federal regulations for the food stamp program in the federal register. Rules published in the federal register are incorporated into the United States Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). FNS also issues administrative notices and memos to inform states of program requirements that are not yet in C.F.R., as well as standards that are not formally adopted under the federal rule-making process.
DSHS incorporates these regulations, federal standards, policy guidance, and exercises state options by adopting administrative rules for food assistance benefits in Washington state.
Process for Developing New Rule: DSHS welcomes the public to take part in developing the rules. Anyone interested should contact the staff person identified below. At a later date, DSHS will file a proposal with the office of the code reviser with a notice of proposed rule making. A copy of the proposal will be sent to everyone on the mailing list and to anyone who requests a copy.
Interested parties can participate in the decision to adopt the new rule and formulation of the proposed rule before publication by contacting John Camp, Policy Analyst, Division of Employment and Assistance Programs, P.O. Box 45470, Olympia, WA 98504-5470, phone (360) 725-4616, fax (360) 493-3493, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 17, 2005 
Andy Fernando, Manager
Rules and Policies Assistance Unit