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Deputy Under Secretary Lipps Issues Statement on the January 2020 Unemployment Figures

Press Release
Release No.
FNS 0002.20
Contact: FNS Press Team

Washington, DC, February 7, 2020 – U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Brandon Lipps issued the following statement on the employment statistics released today:

“Under President Trump's leadership, unemployment is just 3.6%, near the fifty-year low with another 225,000 jobs created last month. As President Trump noted this week, the strength of our economy provides opportunities for all Americans. Yet millions of able-bodied Americans remain disengaged from the workforce.

“USDA and our state partners have a responsibility to work together to help SNAP participants move toward employment. USDA has been relentless in notifying, educating, and equipping states to fulfill this goal. Some states are proactive leaders at improving their SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) programs to ensure participants obtain the skills local employers need. However, not all states are. Today, I call on those states to leverage the opportunity afforded to us by the longest economic expansion in U.S. history to get to work on getting people to work. Together, we can do more to help SNAP recipients realize their own American dream.”


On April 1, 2020, the final rule, SNAP: Requirements for Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents,” will take effect. The rule clarifies and strengthens the criteria for states to waive the time limit (3 months of SNAP benefits in a 3 year period) for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) who do not fulfill the work requirements put in place during welfare reform in 1996.

As is the case under current law and maintained under the new rule:

  • The ABAWD work requirements only apply to adults ages 18-49 who have no dependents to care for and no physical or mental disability.
  • The requirements can be fulfilled in a variety of ways including working at least 20 hours a week, participating in job training, or even volunteering for as little as 6 hours a week.
  • States must assess each individual's capacity to work before imposing the work requirements.
  • States can exempt up to 12% of their caseload from the ABAWD work requirements for any reason.
  • States can request a waiver of the time limit when the unemployment rate is high or there is a lack of sufficient jobs in the area.

USDA has taken many actions to inform states of the requirements including:

  • November 2015 memo providing guidance to states in taking the balanced approach necessary to properly implement the SNAP time limit for ABAWDs;
  • Secretary Perdue's 2018 letter to states asking them to review their policy choices concerning when and where to request ABAWD waivers and to ensure their systems are up-to-date and able to track ABAWDs;
  • 2019 memo to states on SNAP E&T resources available; and

Finally, both administrative costs and employment-related services in SNAP E&T are eligible for unlimited 50 percent federal match. Some states have seized on this opportunity, resulting in a more than $100 million increase in available E&T funding over the last year alone. FNS Regional and National Offices stand ready to help states engage their disengaged.


Page updated: November 06, 2023