ACCESS Florida

Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) Work Requirements for Food Assistance Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I am an ABAWD?

ABAWD means able-bodied adult without dependents. You are an ABAWD if you are age 18 through 49 and not exempt due to one of the criteria below:

    • Responsible for the care of a dependent child under age 6?
    • Responsible for the care of an incapacitated individual, whether or not you live with the individual?
    • Determined physically or mentally unfit for employment (receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), veteran’s disability, or private disability (temporary or permanent))?
    • Unfit for employment due to physical or mental limitation (may—but is not required to--have pending application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), veteran’s disability, or private disability (temporary or permanent))?
    • Receiving or applied for Unemployment Compensation?
    • Employed or self-employed, working at least 120 hours monthly or earning $870 per month?
    • Working or volunteering at least 80 hours per month?
    • A regular participant in a drug or alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation program (Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or Sober Homes do not qualify)?
    • A student enrolled at least half-time in any recognized school, training program, or an institution of higher education?
    • Complying with Temporary Cash Assistance Work Requirements?
    • Living and eating with a member in your household who is under the age of 18?
    • Pregnant?
    • Homeless?

If any of these apply to you, you must contact DCF. We will consider your information to determine if you are exempt from participating in the work activities.

What does it mean to be an ABAWD for food assistance?

If you are an able-bodied adult without a dependent who is physically and mentally able to work, and you do not have any of the exemptions listed above, you will be required to participate in the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Employment and Training Program (SNAP E&T), operated by Local Workforce Development Boards (LWDB) across the state of Florida called CareerSource. To find a LWDB near you, visit: http://www.floridajobs.org/onestop/onestopdir/

Federal law requires certain people who receive food assistance to participate in work activities. The SNAP E&T Program helps individuals who receive food assistance to register and participate in a work activity. If you start to receive food assistance and must participate in SNAP E&T activities, you will receive a letter from the Department of Economic Opportunity about the SNAP E&T Program. This letter will explain work activity requirements such as employment or participation in educational activities. Please make sure to follow the instructions in the letter or your food assistance may be terminated.
Able-bodied adults must work or participate in the SNAP E&T Program for at least 80 hours per month. Able-bodied adults who fail to participate in SNAP E&T can only receive food assistance for three months in a 36-month period. Able-bodied adults who have already received food assistance for three time-limited months may receive them again by meeting an exemption, working, or taking part in a work program for at least 80 or more hours separately or in combination in any month before applying for food assistance.
If you receive a letter from the SNAP E&T Program, call the phone number in the letter if you have any questions.

Why do ABAWDs have to complete work requirements for food assistance?

Federal law mandates that food assistance benefits for ABAWDs must have time-limits and work requirements. Time-limits and work requirements have not been mandatory since 2009 because of high unemployment rates, which have improved in Florida. Here is some program history:

  • The federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 required ABAWDs to participate in work-related activities to receive SNAP benefits.
  • During times of high unemployment, the federal requirement can be waived, or put aside, as was the case in Florida since 2009.
  • Since January 1, 2016, Florida began serving ABAWDs through its SNAP E&T Program again.

What should I do if I am unable to work?

You may not have to participate in SNAP E&T if you can show good cause. Good cause includes temporary circumstances beyond a person’s control. Some examples are:

  • Illness
  • Illness of another household member
  • A household emergency

Other reasons may be considered good cause.  If you are not sure, contact DCF and discuss your situation.
If you have not already reported the situation that makes you unable to work, or you think you should be exempt from the ABAWD work requirements, please report this in your My ACCESS Account by selecting “Report a Change,” or contact the Customer Call Center at 866-762-2737.

How will I be notified if I have work requirements for food assistance?

  • The LWDB (CareerSource) will mail notices to households that receive food assistance and identify any person who has work requirements.
  • Notices will be sent by regular mail, even if you opted to receive notices electronically from DCF.
  • Once you have completed orientation with CareerSource, you will be able to opt in to receive future notices from CareerSource electronically.
  • It is very important that DCF and CareerSource have a valid mailing address on file for your household. You can verify and update the address DCF has on file for you through your MyACCESS Account.

Who do I notify if I have a job?

If you are working, notify DCF. When you apply, or when you renew your food assistance benefits, if you are working less than 80 hours per month and you are identified as a person who could have work requirements, your information will be sent to a LWDB and you will be contacted to begin tracking your work hours or work requirements.

What requirements do I have to notify DCF of any changes?

If you are approved for food assistance, you must contact DCF to report any of the following changes within 10 days after the month the change happened:

  • Your work hours falling below 80 hours per month
  • Your monthly income exceeding 130% of the Federal Poverty Level

While not required, you should contact DCF to report any changes in your household circumstances that might make you subject to work requirements (for example: Unemployment Compensation benefits ending or a child leaving the home).

What are Local Workforce Development Boards?

Florida’s LWDBs assist in providing information about available jobs, on-the-job training, and education and training services. ABAWDs can meet work requirements in a variety of ways by accessing services offered through LWDB career centers. To find a LWDB career center near you, visit http://www.floridajobs.org/onestop/onestopdir/

What are the food assistance work requirements for ABAWDs?

An ABAWD must meet the work requirements each month to continue to receive food assistance benefits. Even if you are already meeting these requirements, CareerSource will still contact you so your hours can be tracked. Work requirements for an ABAWD to continue receiving food assistance benefits are:

  • Working or volunteering 80 hours per month
  • Participating 80 hours per month in a LWDB work program
  • Completing a combination of these activities that averages to 80 hours per month

You must inform your CareerSource worker of your hours. Failure to contact CareerSource will result in benefits ending. If you are already meeting the work requirements and you receive a notice to complete orientation, contact DCF and ask the eligibility specialist to review your referral information.

What are sanctions and time limits and how do these affect a person identified as an ABAWD?

If you are an ABAWD and you do not complete work requirements, or do not meet an exemption, a sanction will be imposed that stops food assistance benefits. When you are not completing work requirements, any months of food assistance benefits you receive are counted as time-limited months. You can only receive three months of time-limited food assistance during the 36-month period from January 1, 2018, through December 31, 2021.

How long do I have to wait to receive my benefits again if I do not meet work requirements?

The minimum waiting (also known as sanction) period is one month but could be as long as 3 or 6 months if it is the second or third time that you have not completed work requirements. After you have served the minimum sanction period, you will need to resume work activities with CareerSource or on your own prior to reapplying.

What should I do if I receive a notice that my benefits will be sanctioned (stopped) on a certain effective date, and I have new information to report?

Prior to a sanction taking effect, you will receive a notice from DCF informing you that CareerSource has determined you to be out of compliance with work requirements. You will be given a due date to contact DCF to report a change in circumstance or a good cause reason for not completing the work requirements.
If you need to report new information before a sanction takes effect, you can report a change in your MyACCESS Account, contact the ACCESS Customer Call Center, or visit an ACCESS Service Center or Community Partner. If you need to report new information after the effective date of a sanction, you must reapply for benefits at www.myflorida.com/accessflorida and your situation will be evaluated.

What happens if I receive three months of time-limited food assistance?

If you receive three months of time-limited food assistance during the 36-month period from January 1, 2019, through December 31, 2021, you will lose your eligibility for food assistance until the next 36-month period starts on January 1, 2022, unless you meet an exemption or start working at least 80 hours a month.

Can I regain my eligibility if I have already used three months of time-limited food assistance?

You can regain your eligibility before you reapply by meeting an exemption, or doing the following:

  • Working or volunteering 80 hours or more during any month before reapplying
  • Participating in a work program for 80 hours or more during any month before reapplying
  • Completing a combination of the above for 80 hours or more during any month before reapplying

If you regain your eligibility by working or volunteering, you can receive up to three additional months of time-limited food assistance while not meeting an exemption and not meeting work requirements. These are called bonus months.

What are bonus months?

If you are an ABAWD and you have regained your eligibility, by working or volunteering, after receiving three months of time-limited food assistance during the 36-month period from January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2021, you could be eligible for up to an additional three months of food assistance while not complying with work requirements or meeting an exemption. These are called bonus months. You will receive the bonus months as soon as you notify DCF that you are not fulfilling the work requirements or meeting an exemption.
Bonus months can only be used once every 36-month period and must be used one after the other. If you use them during this 36-month period, you will not be eligible to receive them again until January 1, 2022.

Am I exempt from work requirements during my bonus months?

No. If you were not already participating in a CareerSource work program, you will be referred to CareerSource. You are still responsible for fulfilling the work requirements once you are referred to CareerSource. You can become sanctioned while receiving bonus months if you do not comply with work requirements.
While you can receive bonus months once every 36-month period, you may only receive one or two if you are sanctioned. Unused bonus months cannot be used again, even if you later regain your eligibility prior to January 1, 2022.

What happens if I do not meet the work requirements after I have used my bonus months?

If you are not fulfilling the work requirements or meeting an exemption after using your bonus months, your benefits will end, and you will lose your eligibility for food assistance until the next 36-month period starts on January 1, 2022.
To receive food assistance before then, you will need to regain your eligibility before you reapply by doing the following:

  • Working or volunteering 80 hours or more during any month before reapplying
  • Participating in a work program for 80 hours or more during any month before reapplying
  • Completing a combination of the above for 80 hours or more during any month before reapplying

You must be meeting work requirements or have an exemption to the work requirements at the time of application to be eligible and receive food assistance.

If I am identified as an ABAWD, will it change the amount of my food assistance benefits?

No. Being identified as an ABAWD does not change the amount of your food assistance benefits.

Can I opt out of this program?

No. If you are identified as an ABAWD, you must complete the work requirements. You cannot opt out if you want to keep receiving your food assistance benefits.

If I am an ABAWD with work requirements for the Food Assistance Program, does this affect my Medicaid eligibility or Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA)?

Persons identified as ABAWDs are not likely to have Medicaid or TCA because a person must be disabled or have children in the household to be eligible for those benefits.

What should I do if I cannot work temporarily?

You must report your situation to DCF as soon as possible for your temporary situation to be given consideration.
You may not have to participate in SNAP E&T immediately if you can show good cause. Good cause includes temporary circumstances beyond a person’s control. Some examples are:

  • Illness
  • Illness of another household member
  • A household emergency

Other reasons may be considered good cause.  If you are not sure, contact DCF and discuss your situation.
If you have not already reported the situation that makes you unable to work, or you think you should be exempt from the ABAWD work requirements, please report this in your My ACCESS Account by selecting “Report a Change,” or contact the Customer Call Center at 866-762-2737.