67. Waiver of ABAWD requirements: Excusing the three-month cut-off
California has received an all-state waiver of the ABAWD rule. [ACIN I-80-08.] The waiver was originally effective October 1, 2008 through the end of September, 2009. It has since been extended through September 2013. It applies unless a county opts out of the waiver, with the approval of its Board of Supervisors.
- Geographic waivers of the ABAWD three-month cut-off
- Automatic geographic waiver requests in California
- Personal, case-by-case waivers
- Examples of ABAWD waiver polices in California
Geographic waivers of the ABAWD three-month cut-off
There are two types of ABAWD waivers: geographic waivers sought by the state from USDA; and personal waivers decided on a case-by-case basis by the county workers. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) allows geographic waivers for areas with chronic unemployment and areas without enough jobs. [7 C.F.R. § 273.24 (f)(1).] At the request of states, FNS may waive the 3/36-month requirement and work requirements if ABAWDs live in an area where:
- the unemployment rate is over 10%; or
- the state can document that there are not a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment for these individuals.
[MPP § 63-410.33; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(f)(i).] FNS now allows states to apply for 2-year waivers. [See FNS Memorandum to Regional Directors, 2-Year Approval of Waivers of the Work Requirements for ABAWDs under 7 C.F.R. § 273.24 (February 3, 2006).] The affected area must meet at least one of the following criteria indicating that the area has and likely will continue to experience chronic high unemployment:
- an unemployment rate greater than 10% for the 2-year period immediately before the request;
- designation as a labor surplus area (LSA) by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA) for a minimum of two consecutive fiscal years (inclusive of the year of the request and the fiscal year before the request); or
- an unemployment rate greater than 20% above the national average for a 36-month period, ending no earlier than three months before the request ( the 24-month time frame used for waivers in which the state is requesting a waiver for a 1-year geographic waiver).
Automatic geographic waiver requests in California
In 2006, the California legislature passed a law requiring the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to apply for a waiver for all California counties that meet the geographic waiver requirements. [Welf. & Inst. Code § 18926 (a).] Under this law, a county must affirmatively opt out of the waiver, in writing, by a vote of the county’s board of supervisors. [Welf. & Inst. Code § 18926 (b).] All counties currently qualify, unless they opt out. ACIN I-27-12.
Personal, case-by-case waivers
States can waive an additional 15% of ABAWDs from these time limits and work rules, based on criteria developed by the state. (These are referred to in the rules as “15% exemptions”.) [MPP § 63-410.34; 7 C.F.R. § 273.24(g).] Individual ABAWD waivers — or “15% exemptions” — allow all California counties to protect ABAWDs who face significant barriers to unemployment. In California, each county has a percent of households that they can waive; that percent is based on the county’s ABAWD caseload. [See e.g., ACIN I-05-03.] Caseworkers in county food stamp offices use these waivers to extend benefits on a month-by-month basis for ABAWDs who do not meet the work requirements. [MPP § 63-410.34.] No financial penalty attaches to California or the counties for under- or over-utilizing the 15% exemption. [ACIN I-98-99.] Unfortunately, however, counties consistently under utilize these case-by-case waivers for individuals.
Examples of ABAWD waiver polices in California
Santa Cruz County policy considers seasonal unemployment, natural disasters, lay-offs due to business closure or relocation, and the presence of severe barriers to employment, such as homelessness, lack of education or transportation, and substance abuse. San Francisco County has a written policy encouraging caseworkers to use screen their ABAWD cases carefully and to proactively apply exemptions for ABAWDs facing homelessness, unemployment and food insecurity.