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Information Collection: SNAP Waivers Under the Food and Nutrition Act

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This collection is a revision of a currently approved collection of information relating to a time limit of the receipt of benefits under Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for certain able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) who are not working.

Section 6(o) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 establishes a time limit for the receipt of SNAP benefits for certain ABAWDs who are not working at least 20 hours per week. This time limit applies only to adults between 18 and 50 years of age that do not have children or adult dependents in their SNAP household. ABAWD recipient eligibility is limited to three months within a 36-month period, unless the individual is working, or participating in a designated employment and training activity, for 20 hours per week.

The provision authorizes that upon the request of a state agency, the Secretary of Agriculture may waive this provision for any group of individuals if the Secretary determines “that the area in which the individuals reside has an unemployment rate of over 10 percent or does not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment for the individuals.” As required in the statute, to receive a waiver, the state agency must submit sufficient supporting information so that the Secretary can make the required determination as to the area's unemployment rate or insufficiency of available jobs. This collection of information is necessary to obtain waivers of the SNAP ABAWD time limit.

State agencies submit formal requests to waive the ABAWD time limit to FNS for approval through the electronic Waiver Information Management System (WIMS). In their requests, state agencies (1) designate the areas where they wish to waive the time limit, (2) explain the criteria for which those areas qualify for a waiver, and (3) provide required data to justify their request. A typical state waiver request includes several geographic areas, and each geographic area may include multiple cities or counties. FNS reviews the requests and supporting information to ensure that all necessary requirements to waive the time limit are met.

On Dec. 5, 2019, FNS published the final rule, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Requirements for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents” (84 FR 66782). This rule significantly increased the reporting burden associated with this information collection, primarily because of the start-up costs associated with the rule, and adjusted the estimates of the type of data states would use to support their ABAWD waiver requests. When the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated this rule on Oct. 18, 2020, the previous regulations were reinstated. As a result, the reporting burden estimates for this information collection have decreased with this revision to reflect the return to regulations prior to the final rule.

Based on FNS's experience in fiscal years (FY) 2018 through 2021, FNS projects that 35 out of 53 state agencies will submit requests for a waiver of the time limit for ABAWD recipients based on a high unemployment rate or an insufficient number of jobs. Based on requests submitted and approved in FY 2019, FNS projects that of the 35 requests each year, 33 will use labor market data and two will use the Department of Labor's (DOL) Labor Surplus Area (LSA) designations or an extended unemployment benefits (EB) trigger notice to request a waiver. FNS is using only FY 2019 as the baseline for this part of the estimate because of the unique circumstances affecting the data states submitted to support their ABAWD waiver requests in FYs 2020 through 2022, as explained below.

In late FY 2019 through late FY 2020, states submitted ABAWD waiver requests using the criteria outlined in the final rule titled, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Requirements for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents” (84 FR 66782). As mentioned above, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated this rule on October 18, 2020, and states no longer request ABAWD waivers using these methods. In FY 2020 through FY 2022, the ABAWD time limit was partially suspended by the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (PL 116-127), and states primarily supported their waivers using EB trigger notices because of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This simplified the waiver request process for states and reduced the amount of time it takes to compile and share the data to support the waiver request. FNS does not expect a significant number of states to qualify for EB trigger notices beyond FY 2022, having already seen a drop-off in calendar year 2022 qualifications. FNS anticipates states currently using this criterion to switch to requests using labor market data in the future, which takes more time to compile.

In line with the estimates included in the 2018 renewal of this information collection, FNS provides two estimates for the burden of preparing and submitting waiver requests based on the waiver criteria used. For the first waiver criteria in the burden chart below, FNS estimates a response time for this activity is approximately 35 hours to prepare and submit via WIMS for each waiver request based on labor market data, which require detailed analysis of labor markets within the state using Bureau of Labor Statistics or a cooperating agency's data.

Page updated: November 22, 2023