USDA Proposes Changes to SNAP Waiver Process

Late last week, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a proposed rule that would make it much harder for states to be granted waivers from existing food-stamp work requirements. Under existing rules, recipients who are classified as able-bodied adults without dependents (referred to as ABAWD) are limited to three months of benefits every three years, unless they work an average of 20 hours per week. But many states have been granted waivers that exempt their ABAWD recipients from having to comply with this requirement.

Currently, states qualify for such waivers because they have areas where the unemployment rate is 20% higher than the national average unemployment rate, which was 3.9% as of December.

The proposed rule would impose a new unemployment rate floor of 7%, meaning states could only qualify for a waiver in places where the employment rate is 7% or higher.

According to USDA's proposal, about 44% of able-bodied adults without dependents currently live in an area where the program's work requirements have been waived. Under the proposal, that number would drop to 11%.

The proposed rule would encourage broader application of the statutory ABAWD work requirement, consistent with the Administration's focus on fostering self-sufficiency. The USDA seeks comments from the public on the proposed regulations.