The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

55. What is the “ABAWD” 3-month time limit for childless adults age 18 to 50?

Starting January 1, 2016, many childless adults – ages 18 through 49 years – will receive only three (3) months of SNAP in a 36 month period unless the individual is exempt or meeting certain work rules. This is a recently reinstated federal SNAP rule that affects individuals age 18 through 49 who are “able-bodied without dependents” or ABAWDs. 106 C.M.R. 362.320. You may be exempt from this rule based on illness, homelessness, living with a child or living in certain parts of the states.  See Question 56.

If you are not exempt, your SNAP benefits will end unless you meet one of the requirements below.

  • You work 20 hours/ week or more (or are self-employed and earning at least 30 times the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour),
  • You are participating for 20 hours a week or more in an approved training or education activity,
  • You are participating for 20 hours a week in a combination of training or education and  job search activities, but job search cannot exceed 9.5 hours a week, or
  • You are engaged in volunteer or community service activity for up to19 hours a month. The amount of hours you need to work is based on your monthly SNAP grant divided by the state’s minimum wage, now $10/hour as of January 2016.
    • Note: You will need to verify your community service hours with DTA each month. DTA has a form that the community service organization needs to sign. See Appendix C.

Example:  Samuel is age 45 and unemployed. He is medically able to work but has not been able to find a job since he was laid off a year ago and his unemployment insurance ran out.  Samuel applied for SNAP on January 1, 2016 and receives $194/month.  He has no other income. After March 31st, Samuel must meet the work or training requirements above, or find a place to volunteer for 19 hours a week (194/$10 hour) to continue his SNAP benefits.

Under the federal SNAP rules, DTA has no obligation to find you a job, training program or community service site, nor help you with transportation costs.

Additional three months of SNAP

Under certain circumstances you can regain SNAP for an additional three consecutive month period if you lost your SNAP eligibility. This option is available if you had a job for at least 80 hours a month, or met the other work requirements for at least 30 days, but then that job or other activity ended.  See 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(e).  Note, DTA has not issued regulations or guidance on this provision yet. Contact an advocate if you think you meet this criteria.

DTA Policy Guidance:

Online Guide Sections:  SNAP > Work Requirements > ABAWD Work Program Requirement>

Additional Guidance on ABAWDs:

  • Initial DTA guidance announcing the end of the statewide “waiver” on ABAWD work requirements and reinstatement of 3 month time limit for individuals not otherwise exempt. OLGT #2015-67 (Nov. 20, 2015) 
  • Verification of an ABAWD exemption can’t hold up SNAP benefits, unless SNAP client has already used up their 3 months of SNAP after January 1, 2016. Transitions Policy Mailbox, December 2015.

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