66. Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs): Work rules and three-month time limit for employable adults
- What are ABAWDs?
- Exceptions to the ABAWD work rules and cut-off
- Good cause for missing work
- Extended benefits for job loss
- Regaining eligibility after three-month cut-off
- “Notice of Action” of ABAWD status
What are ABAWDs?
“ABAWD” refers to Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents. The ABAWD change was the first time in federal legislation that a time limit was imposed on receiving food stamps. Congress singled out for a three-month time limit, in any three year period, all those “able-bodied” recipients who are not working or in an acceptable work program. [7 U.S.C. § 2015 (o).]
What this means in practice is that anyone between the ages of 18 and 50 with no children and who is not disabled, might only be able to get three months of food stamp benefits every three years. ABAWD’s get three full months of benefits, even if — due to prorating in the month of application — the ABAWD ends up receiving a partial fourth month of benefits as well. An ABAWD could also receive a partial fourth month if he or she became exempt or covered by a waiver part-way through a month. [MPP § 63-410.35. MPP § 63-410.1, 410.3. 7 C.F.R. §§ 273.24(b), 273.24(c).] This cut-off applies if the person is not working or in workfare at least 20 hours a week or otherwise participating in an approved work/training activity. [MPP § 63-410; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(b).] The work and training activities are defined in MPP § 63-407.8; 7 C.F.R. § 273.7(a)(1) and (2).
Exceptions to the ABAWD work rules and cut-off
The three-month cut-off does not apply if the person is:
- under age 18 or 50 or over. [MPP § 63-410.321; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(c )(1).];
- mentally or physically unfit for work. [MPP § 63-322; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(c)(2).]
- pregnant. [7 C.F.R. § 273.24(c)(6).];
- working 80 hours a month (including work in exchange for “in kind income”). MPP § 63-410.221, § .221(b); 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(a)(3)(iii)];
- participating in an employment and training program 20 hours a week (if job search activities are less than half the hours). [MPP § 63-410.212-213; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(a)(1)(iii).];;
- participating in a workfare program for the required number of hours (the person’s food stamp benefit divided by the minimum wage). [MPP § 63-410.212; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(a)(1)(iv).];
- the parent or stepparent of a household member who is under age 18, even if that person is not eligible for food stamps. [MPP § 63-410.323; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(c)(3).];
- living with a household member who is under age 18, even if that person is not eligible for food stamps. [MPP § 63-410.323; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(c)(4).];
- living in a waived geographic area. [MPP § 63-410.33; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(b)(1)(ii).];
- exempt from the food stamp work requirements. (For example, the recipient is receiving unemployment benefits, is a student in an education or training program at least half-time, or in a drug treatment program. [MPP § 63-410.31, 63-407.21.]).
[7 C.F.R. § 273.24(c)(5).]
Good cause for missing work
If the person would have worked an average of 20 hours per week but missed some work for “good cause,” and if the absence from work is temporary, and they keep their job, the food stamp office must find there was compliance with the work requirement. [MPP § 63-410.221; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(a)(2).] Good cause includes circumstance beyond a person’s control, such as illness, illness of another household member requiring the recipient’s presence, a household emergency, or the lack of transportation. [MPP § 63-407.5; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24 (b)(2).]
Extended benefits for job loss
If the person gets three months of benefits while not working or not exempt, and then gets a job, but later loses that job, they can get three more months of benefits. [MPP § 63-410.52; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(e).] This extra three months of benefits is allowed only one time in three years, and the three months have to be in a row. [MPP § 63-410.521; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(e).] (If a person quits a job, they will be subject to the voluntary quit rules.)
Regaining eligibility after three-month cut-off
A person will be eligible for stamps if any one of the following apply, i.e., the person:
- works 80 hours in a 30-day period;
- complies with the requirements of a work program for 80 hours in a 30-day period;
- performs any combination of work and participation in a work program for 80 hours in a 30 day period;
- complies with a workfare program for the number of hours needed for one month’s worth of benefits; or
- becomes exempt.
[MPP § 63-407.5; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(d)(1). See also, FNS Cumulative Questions & Answers on Certification and Work Issues in PRWORA (last updated July 1999).]
If an ABAWD person has regained eligibility after losing the time-limited benefits, and then stops doing the work requirement during the 36 months of the time limit bar, s/he can get food stamps for three consecutive months, beginning on the first month the county learns that the individual is not satisfying the ABAWD work requirement. [MPP § 63-407.52; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(e).] In other words, successfully regaining food stamps, and then losing them, starts a new 3-month time-limited benefit.
“Notice of Action” of ABAWD status
A county must give a “Notice of Action” (NOA) in the person’s third month of benefits that a person’s food stamps will be cut off due to ABAWD rules. [MPP § 63-410.41.] The notice must state that the person may demonstrate that they were (or are) exempt from the work requirement, have good cause per MPP § 63-410.221, or that they actually met the work requirements. [MPP § 63-410.413.] The notice must also tell them what months are at issue. [MPP § 63-410.412.] The person can always ask for a fair hearing on these issues if they cannot convince the county they should not be cut off.