Who is exempt from the 3-month ABAWD time limit?

We are in the process of updating the SNAP Advocacy Guide, so some of the information is no longer current.  In the meantime, you can read or download a PDF of the 2023 guide from www.masslegalservices.org/FoodStampSNAPAdvocacyGuide

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed January 2020

Exempt means you do not have to meet the work rules. You are EXEMPT if you meet any one of the following criteria:

  • You are under age 18 or over 49 years old,
  • You are disabled and receiving a disability-based benefit such as SSI, MassHealth as disabled, EAEDC cash assistance,
  • You are physically or mentally “unfit for work” – either permanently or temporarily – based on a statement from a health care provider,
  • You participate in a vocational rehabilitation program, a mental health program, or a drug or alcohol treatment program, or you are in a refugee training program,
  • You are pregnant (any stage),
  • You are homeless based on criteria as established by DTA,
  • You live in the same household with a child under 18, even if not related to you,
  • You are responsible for the care of an incapacitated person or a child under age 6, even you don’t live with them,
  • You are receiving unemployment benefits or waiting for your unemployment claim to be approved,
  • You work 30 hours per week or earn (at a job or through self-employment) at least $217.50 per week in gross (pre-tax) income ($217.50 is 30 times the current federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour) OR
  • You are a student enrolled in a high-school, vocational or post-secondary educational program or college and meet the student rules. See What if I am a college student? on which college students are considered eligible for SNAP. 106 C.M.R. §362.320 (B)

Areas of Massachusetts exempt from the 3 month rule

In addition to the exemptions listed above, low income residents of certain cities and towns with elevated rates of unemployment are also currently exempt from the time limit. As of January 2020, there are 83 Massachusetts cities and towns whose residents are exempt from the time limit based on elevated unemployment rates. These areas are mostly in Western MA, Cape and Islands, Merrimack Valley and Southeastern MA. See MassLegalServices.org/ABAWD for a list of exempt 2020 areas.

In December 2019 the Trump Administration finalized a rule change that would dramatically restrict when states can waive areas of the state due to elevated rates of unemployment. The changes in the federal rule may start in April of 2020 unless a federal court delays or prohibits implementation of the rule. As this Guide goes to print, litigation has been filed by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and 14 other AGOs. Check MassLegalServices.org/ABAWD for up-to-date information.

Proving an ABAWD exemption to DTA

DTA should automatically know about some ABAWD exemptions. For example, DTA should know if you are under age 18 or age 50 or older, if you receive a disability benefit like SSI or EAEDC, or if you are in a SNAP household with children under age 18. There are other exemptions you may qualify for but need to tell DTA about.

Here’s some steps you can take to show DTA you are exempt:

  • If you can’t work because you have a mental or physical impairment, DTA has a one-page form you can bring to a medical provider. It can be signed by a wide range of medical providers, licensed social workers, counselors or directors of substance abuse or mental health programs.
  • If you are homeless, DTA has a one page homeless screening form. Fill this out if you do not have a stable night time residence or show that you meet other factors that make you exempt. You can also tell DTA this information over the phone. Call DTA and ask them to talk to you about the homeless screening for ABAWDs.
  • If you are pregnant or are claiming another exemption, DTA has a screening form that lists the exemptions and tells you what verifications to send in to show to DTA you are exempt.

Advocacy Reminders:

ü For more resources, including a checklist of exemptions, see MLRI’s webpage: Masslegalservices.org/ABAWD. You can find copies of all the forms and information you need. As updates become available about ABAWDs we will post them at this webpage.

DTA Online Guide Sections:SNAP > Work Requirements > ABAWD Work Program Requirement > ABAWD Work Program Exemptions and > ABAWD Work Program Waived Areas


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