Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs)

Last Published: 09/01/2015

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) limits the receipt of SNAP benefits to 3 months in a 3-year period for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) who are not working, participating in, and complying with the requirements of a work program for 20 hours or more each week, or a workfare program.  Individuals are exempt from this provision if they are:

  • Under 18 or 50 years of age or older,
  • Responsible for the care of a child or incapacitated household member,
  • Medically certified as physically or mentally unfit for employment, pregnant, or
  • Already exempt from SNAP general work requirements.

States may request a waiver of this provision for people in areas with an unemployment rate above 10 percent or for those in an area with insufficient jobs.  States also have authority to exempt individuals using the 15% exemption authorized by the Balanced Budget Act.

SNAP regulations provide a number of ways States can demonstrate that an unemployment rate above 10 percent or a lack of sufficient jobs.  States can provide evidence of any of the following to qualify for a waiver:

  • A recent 12-month unemployment rate above 10%
  • A recent 3-month unemployment rate above 10%
  • Designated as Labor Surplus Area (LSA) by the Department of Labor
  • Qualifies for extended unemployment benefits
  • A 24-month average unemployment rate 20% above the national average
  • A low and declining employment to population ratio
  • A lack of jobs in declining occupations or industries
  • Described in an academic study or other publication as an area where there is a lack of jobs

States frequently assign persons subject to the ABAWD restrictions to their Employment and Training (E&T) Program.  While participating in this program, ABAWDs are exempt from the ABAWD restrictions. For information on the E&T program, go to the Employment & Training page.

More information about ABAWDs

ABAWD Exemptions

ABAWD Waivers

DOL Labor Surplus Area List