Food Stamps (Basic Food benefits)/ABAWD Time Limit and Work Requirements
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
Read this if you receive food stamps (Basic Food benefits) and you are an Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents (ABAWD). #7305EN
- Should I read this?
- What is an Able-Bodied Adult without Dependents (ABAWD)?
- How does being an ABAWD affect my food benefits?
- I get food stamps. Do I have to meet the ABAWD work requirements?
- Where in Washington will there be work requirements for ABAWDs who get food stamps?
- Why do the work requirements only apply to some areas of Washington?
- I am an ABAWD. I live in King County. What are the exemptions to the work requirements?
- Do I qualify for an exemption from ABAWD work requirements?
- What are the work requirements?
- What is a Workfare organization?
- How many hours do I have to complete at a Workfare organization?
- How do I show DSHS that I am completing my Workfare hours?
- How do I sign up for BFET, RISE, or another state-approved employment or training program?
- I must meet the work requirements. I have not been able to go to my work or volunteer place. Do I have a good reason for not meeting the work requirements?
- I do not meet the work requirements. What will happen to my food stamps?
- I did not meet the work requirements. I lost my food stamps (Basic Food benefits). Can I get them back?
- I did not meet the work requirements. I lost my food stamps. I did not get a second three-month period OR I lost my benefits again after the second three-month period. Can I ever get food stamps again?
- Can I appeal a decision DSHS has made about my food stamps?
Yes, if all these are true:
you get food stamps (Basic Food benefits)
you are an Able-Bodied Adult without Dependents (ABAWD)
you live in King County
All of these:
Not taking care of any minor children.
Most ABAWDs will only get three full months (and any partial months) of food stamps in a 36-month period if you do not meet work requirements.
A new 36-month clock started on January 1, 2018. ABAWDs will get three full months of food benefits as of that date even if you do not meet the work requirements or are not exempt.
ABAWDs who were not exempt or meeting the work requirements, who lost food benefits because of this before January 1, 2018, and who have not reapplied since then, should reapply as soon as possible.
ABAWDs who are exempt or meeting work requirements will keep getting food assistance as they have been.
ABAWDs who do not qualify for an exemption or meet work requirements, and who get or have received their three full months of food stamps after January 1, 2018, might not get food benefits again until 2021.
Yes, if all these are true:
You live in King County. You do not live on the Muckleshoot Reservation.
You are age 18 to 49.
You have no dependents.
You are physically and mentally able to work.
You do not qualify for an exemption under WAC 388-444-0035. (See exemptions on page two.)
If you live in King County and do not qualify for an exemption, you must meet the work requirements unless you live on the Muckleshoot Reservation.
*ABAWDs who live on the Muckleshoot Reservation are exempt from the work requirements.
If you live in any other county in Washington, including Pierce and Snohomish counties, you do not have to meet the ABAWD work requirements to get food benefits.
Entire cities and counties can be exempt from the work requirements based on their unemployment rates. If the number of unemployed people is low enough, people in that city or county must meet the work requirements.
You do not have to meet the work requirements if one of these is true:
You live on the Muckleshoot Reservation.
You are not physically or mentally able to work.
You live in a Basic Food assistance unit with a minor child.
You care for a disabled person or a frail elder who is incapacitated.
You take part in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program.
You get a disability-based benefit (SSI, SSDI, ABD, Workers’ Comp, and so on).
You are pregnant at any stage of the pregnancy.
You get unemployment benefits.
You have applied for unemployment benefits.
You are a student enrolled at least halftime in a recognized school.
You cannot find work because you are homeless.
You work 30 or more hours a week. (This number could be less. Contact DSHS if you think you meet this exemption.)
You are already meeting the work requirements of an employment and training program for TANF.
If you think so, contact DSHS immediately at 1-877-501-2233. Ask them to screen you for an exemption from the ABAWD work requirements.
If you think you qualify because you are unable to work, ask your doctor immediately for a written statement saying that.
If you are homeless, contact DSHS immediately, or have someone do it for you. Tell DSHS you are homeless and cannot work because of this.
You must do one of these:
Work at least 20 hours a week, averaged monthly. This includes work for pay; work for goods or services, or in-kind work, and some other types of unpaid work. It can be a combination of these types of work.
Volunteer with a Workfare organization. DSHS calculates the number of required monthly hours by dividing your food benefits amount by the local minimum wage amount. Contact DSHS to get the exact number of hours you must complete.
Take part in Basic Food Employment and Training (BFET).
Take part in Resources to Initiate Successful Employment (RISE).
Take part in a state-approved employment or training program. These include but are not limited to:
Refugee with Special Employment Needs (RSEN) project
Programs included in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)
A non-profit, public, or government agency, such as a community organization or school. You must contact DSHS at 1-877-501-2233 to have them refer you to a Workfare organization.
Ask DSHS. Call 1-877-501-2233 or visit your local CSO office. Find your local CSO office at https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-find-an-office. You can also email DSHS at email@example.com.
Turn in the Basic Food Workfare Activity Report to DSHS. Get the report from DSHS.
Call DSHS at 1-877-501-2233 for more info. These programs have room for anyone who is eligible. You can also email DSHS at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit your local CSO office. Find your local CSO office at https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-find-an-office.
I must meet the work requirements. I have not been able to go to my work or volunteer place. Do I have a good reason for not meeting the work requirements?
An ABAWD can claim “good cause” for not meeting the work or volunteer hours if you were sick, transportation broke down, or there was bad weather that shut down the workplace. Other reasons might be good cause as well.
If an ABAWD who has a job or volunteer slot missed work hours for reasons beyond your control, DSHS should accept this as “good cause” and not stop your food stamps.
If you have a work or volunteer placement and you have not met your work requirements for a good reason, contact DSHS immediately at 1-877-501-2233.
See WAC 388-444-0050.
Your food benefits will end if you do not meet work requirements for three full months. These months do not have to be in a row.
Example 1: You are not exempt. You have been meeting the work requirements. You do not meet the work requirements in all of January, February, and March 2019. Your food benefits will end March 31, 2019.
Example 2: You are not exempt. You have been meeting the work requirements. You do not meet the work requirements in all of January, March, and June. You meet the work requirements for all other months between March and June. Your food benefits will end June 30, 2019.
I did not meet the work requirements. I lost my food stamps (Basic Food benefits). Can I get them back?
Yes, if one of these is true: You
Start taking part in work requirements.
Move out of King County.
If you meet one of the first two, you can get a second period of three months of food stamps. If you move out of King County, the ABAWD time limit and work requirements no longer apply to you. You can get food benefits back for as long as you are eligible. You should reapply as soon as possible when any of the above is true.
If you get your benefits back for a second set of three months, and you stop complying with work requirements or lose your exemption from them, you will lose your benefits again after the second three full months. You must then wait until January 1, 2021 to get benefits again.
I did not meet the work requirements. I lost my food stamps. I did not get a second three-month period OR I lost my benefits again after the second three-month period. Can I ever get food stamps again?
Yes. Anyone can get benefits for another three full months without meeting the work requirements starting January 1, 2021. It does not matter when you enrolled in food stamps before this date.
You should reapply close to the end of 2020 to get food benefits again January 1, 2021.
Yes. Every food stamps applicant or recipient can ask for an administrative hearing to challenge any DSHS decision you disagree with. This includes if DSHS denies or ends food stamps for alleged failure to meet an ABAWD exemption or a work or volunteer requirement. Contact a local Legal Services Office immediately if DSHS incorrectly ends or denies your food stamps.
If an ABAWD requests an administrative hearing, the three-month clock stops ticking. You get benefits until there is a hearing decision. If the hearing decision goes against you, you might be at risk for an overpayment. You might have to pay back some of the benefits you got while the hearing was pending.
Click here for more info at DSHS.
This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of December 2018
© 2018 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial use only.)