Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Manual – Table of Contents

1115.035.25.15 Mandatory Utility Standards

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If the EU incurs an allowable utility expense, budget the appropriate mandatory utility standard(s). Use client statement for verification of utility expenses, unless questionable. If questionable, record a comment on the Shelter Expense (SHELEXP/FMXK) screen explaining why the shelter expenses are questionable.

Utility expenses are charges for:

  • Electricity;
  • Garbage and trash collection fees;
  • Heating and cooking fuel such as coal, kerosene, natural gas, oil, or propane;
  • Initial installation fees charged by the utility provider;
  • Purchased wood for heating or cooking;
  • Sewer;
  • Telephone charges; and
  • Water.

The following are not considered utility costs:

  • Costs of cutting wood (such as cutting permits, gas for chain saw, and equipment such as a chain saw); and
  • One time deposits which are separate from installation fees and are generally refundable.

The mandatory utility standards are as follows:

  • Standard Utility Allowance (SUA)The standard utility allowance is $404 per month. The SUA is a mandatory standard expense that includes all utility charges, heating/cooling and cooking fuel, electricity, water, garbage, sewer, trash collection fees, and telephone cost.

    Assess the EU’s eligibility for the SUA at each application and reapplication. For the SUA to be used in calculating shelter cost, the EU must:

    • incur utility expenses for primary heating or cooling costs,
    • have utility charges for heating/cooling costs that are separate from the EU’s rent or mortgage costs or a specified portion of the rent, and
    • be billed on a regular basis for its heating or cooling costs. OR
    • The EU has received energy assistance benefits in the past 12 months, even if it does not incur out-of-pocket expenses.

      NOTE: LIHEAP payments must be more than $20 to qualify an individual for the SUA.

      EXCEPTION: Allow the use of the full SUA for EUs in public housing with shared meters that are only charged for excess utility costs.

      NOTE: EU’s paying a specified amount of utility expenses that are a portion of the rent are entitled to the appropriate utility standard. EUs incurring heating or cooling costs by paying a landlord because of shared meters or the bill being in the landlord’s name, qualify for the SUA also.  This could be verified by a statement from the landlord, if questionable.

      EXAMPLE:  An individual pays the landlord $600 per month.  Applicant states the landlord told them that $400 of this is for rent and $200 is for primary heating or cooling utilities.  This qualifies the individual for the SUA.  Verification of this by the landlord would be required in this questionable situation.

      EXAMPLE:  An individual claims $600 per rent including utilities but cannot provide an itemized statement verifying the amount that goes toward utilities and the amount toward rent.  The individual would not qualify for the utility allowance.

    DMH participants who pay a portion of utilities are entitled to the SUA if the utility expenses meet the criteria above.

    Primary heating costs are verifiable utility expenses relating to the operation of the primary source of heat. Heating costs can be for operation of a furnace, wood stove or fireplace if wood is purchased, or electrical or kerosene space heater if the space heater is used as the primary source of heat. Utility costs for the operation of a space heater, electric blanket, heat lamp, or a cooking stove, etc. when used as a supplemental heating source do not qualify the EU for the SUA. The cost of electricity to power an electric blower for a furnace does not qualify the EU for the SUA when they are not charged for the fuel such as oil or gas to power the furnace.

    Primary cooling costs are defined as verifiable utility expenses relating to the operation of air conditioning systems or room air conditioners. Cooling costs related to the operation of fans are not included as a primary cooling cost.

    EUs not incurring any separate utility charges or billed separately for water, cooking fuel, sewer and/or garbage collection are not entitled to the SUA. The EU may be entitled to the non-heating cooling standard if they are billed for any of these utility expenses.

  • Non-Heating/Cooling Standard (NHCS)The NHCS is $319 per month. If the EU does not qualify for the SUA, but incurs two or more utility expenses, they may qualify for the NHCS. The NHCS includes utility charges which the EU incurs other than for primary heating/cooling.

    Assess the EU’s eligibility for the NHCS at each application and reapplication. For the NHCS to be used in calculating shelter cost, the EU must:

    • incur utility expenses other than for primary heating/cooling
    • have utility charges that are separate from the EU’s rent or mortgage costs or a specified portion of the rent, and
    • be billed on a regular basis for two or more utility costs.

    EUs with primary heating/cooling costs included in the rent, but who are billed separately for two utility expenses of electricity, water, gas/cooking fuel, sewer, and/or garbage collection are entitled to the NHCS.

    NOTE: The NHCS does not include telephone costs. The telephone standard may be used with the non-heating/cooling standard.

    DMH participants, who pay a portion of two utility costs but are not entitled to the SUA, are entitled to the NHCS.

  • Lower Utility Allowance (LUA)The LUA is $131 per month. If the EU does not qualify for the SUA or NHCS, but incurs one utility expense, they may qualify for the LUA. The LUA includes utility charges other than for heating/cooling which the EU incurs.

    Assess the EU’s eligibility for the LUA at each application and reapplication. For the LUA to be used in calculating shelter cost, the EU must:

    • incur a utility expense other than for primary heating/cooling
    • have a utility charge that is separate from the EU’s rent or mortgage costs or a specified portion of the rent, and
    • be billed on a regular basis for one utility cost.

    EUs with primary heating/cooling costs included in the rent but who are billed separately for one utility expense of electricity, water, gas/cooking fuel, sewer, or garbage collection are entitled to the LUA.

    NOTE: The LUA does not include telephone costs. The telephone standard may be used with the non-heating/cooling standard.

    DMH participants, who pay a portion of one utility cost but are not entitled to the SUA or NHCS, are entitled to the LUA.

  • Telephone Standard The telephone standard is $65 per month. If the EU is not entitled to use the SUA but has a qualifying telephone expense, use the standard telephone allowance. The telephone standard may be used with the NHCS or LUA when the EU is entitled to both mandatory utility standards.

    Qualifying telephone expenses are:

    • all service fees required to provide service for one landline telephone, including basic service fees, wire maintenance fees, subscriber line charges, relay center surcharges, 911 fees, and taxes;
    • expense for a cellular phone; or
    • purchase of a TracFone or similar plan. The recurring cost to the EU is the purchase of phone cards that contain a specific number of minutes to be used for a specific phone.

    Pre-paid phone cards that are not associated with a specific phone are not eligible for the telephone standard.