7 CFR § 273.24 - Time limit for able-bodied adults.

§ 273.24 Time limit for able-bodied adults.

(a) Definitions. For purposes of the SNAP time limit, the terms below have the following meanings:

(1) Fulfilling the work requirement means:

(i) Working 20 hours per week, averaged monthly; for purposes of this provision, 20 hours a week averaged monthly means 80 hours a month;

(ii) Participating in and complying with the requirements of a work program 20 hours per week, as determined by the State agency;

(iii) Any combination of working and participating in a work program for a total of 20 hours per week, as determined by the State agency; or

(iv) Participating in and complying with a workfare program;

(2) Working means:

(i) Work in exchange for money;

(ii) Work in exchange for goods or services (“in kind” work); or

(iii) Unpaid work, verified under standards established by the State agency.

(iv) Any combination of paragraphs (a)(2)(i), (a)(2)(ii) and (a)(2)(iii) of this section.

(3) Work Program means:

(i) A program under title 1 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) (Pub. L.113-128);

(ii) A program under section 236 of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. 2296);

(iii) An employment and training program operated or supervised by a State or political subdivision of a State agency that meets standards approved by the Chief Executive Office, including a SNAP E&T program under § 2 73.7(e) excluding any job search, supervised job search, or job search training program. However, a program under this clause may contain job search, supervised job search, or job search training as subsidiary activities as long as such activity is less than half the requirement. Participation in job search, supervised job search, or job search training as subsidiary activities that make up less than half the requirement counts for purposes of fulfilling the work requirement under paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of this section.

(iv) A program of employment and training for veterans operated by the Department of Labor or the Department of Veterans Affairs. For the purpose of this paragraph, any employment and training program of the Department of Labor or Veterans Affairs that serves veterans shall be an approved work program; or

(v) A workforce partnership under § 273.7(n)

(b) General Rule. Individuals are not eligible to participate in SNAP as a member of any household if the individual received SNAP benefits for more than three countable months during any three-year period, except that individuals may be eligible for up to three additional countable months in accordance with paragraph (e) of this section.

(1) Countable months. Countable months are months during which an individual receives SNAP benefits for the full benefit month while not:

(i) Exempt under paragraph (c) of this section;

(ii) Covered by a waiver under paragraph (f) of this section;

(iii) Fulfilling the work requirement as defined in paragraph (a)(1) of this section;

(iv) Receiving benefits that are prorated in accordance with § 273.10; or

(v) In the month of notification from the State agency of a provider determination in accordance with § 273.7(c)(18)(i).

(2) Good cause. As determined by the State agency, if an individual would have fulfilled the work requirement as defined in paragraph (a)(1) of this section, but missed some hours for good cause, the individual shall be considered to have fulfilled the work requirement if the absence from work, the work program, or the workfare program is temporary. Good cause shall include circumstances beyond the individual's control, such as, but not limited to, illness, illness of another household member requiring the presence of the member, a household emergency, or the unavailability of transportation. In addition, if the State agency grants an individual good cause under § 273.7(i) for failure or refusal to meet the mandatory E&T requirement, that good cause determination confers good cause under this paragraph, except in the case of § 273.7(i)(4), without the need for a separate good cause determination under this paragraph. Good cause granted under § 273.7(i)(4) only provides good cause to ABAWDs for failure or refusal to participate in a mandatory SNAP E&T program, and does not confer good cause for failure to fulfill the work requirement in paragraph (a)(1) of this section.

(3) Measuring the three-year period. The State agency may measure and track the three-year period as it deems appropriate. The State agency may use either a “fixed” or “rolling” clock. If the State agency chooses to switch tracking methods it must inform FNS in writing. With respect to a State, the three-year period:

(i) Shall be measured and tracked consistently so that individuals who are similarly situated are treated the same; and

(ii) Shall not include any period before the earlier of November 22, 1996, or the date the State notified SNAP recipients of the application of Section 824 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-193).

(4) Treatment of income and resources. The income and resources of an individual made ineligible under this paragraph (b) shall be handled in accordance with § 273.11(c)(2).

(5) Benefits received erroneously. If an individual subject to this section receives SNAP benefits erroneously, the State agency shall consider the benefits to have been received for purposes of this provision unless or until the individual pays it back in full.

(6) Verification. Verification shall be in accordance with § 273.2(f)(1) and (f)(8).

(7) Reporting. A change in work hours below 20 hours per week, averaged monthly, is a reportable change in accordance with § 273.12(a)(1)(viii). Regardless of the type of reporting system the State agency assigns to potential ABAWDs, the State agency must adhere to the statutory requirements of time-limited benefits for individuals who are subject to the work requirement. The State agency may opt to consider work performed in a job that was not reported according to the requirements of § 273.12 “work.”

(8) The State agency shall inform all ABAWDs of the ABAWD work requirement and time limit both in writing and orally in accordance with § 273.7(c)(1)(ii) and (iii).

(c) Exceptions. The time limit does not apply to an individual if he or she is:

(1) Under 18 or 50 years of age or older;

(2) Determined by the State agency to be medically certified as physically or mentally unfit for employment. An individual is medically certified as physically or mentally unfit for employment if he or she:

(i) Is receiving temporary or permanent disability benefits issued by governmental or private sources;

(ii) Is obviously mentally or physically unfit for employment as determined by the State agency; or

(iii) If the unfitness is not obvious, provides a statement from a physician, physician's assistant, nurse, nurse practitioner, designated representative of the physician's office, a licensed or certified psychologist, a social worker, or any other medical personnel the State agency determines appropriate, that he or she is physically or mentally unfit for employment.

(3) Is a parent (natural, adoptive, or step) of a household member under age 18, even if the household member who is under 18 is not himself eligible for SNAP benefits;

(4) Is residing in a household where a household member is under age 18, even if the household member who is under 18 is not himself eligible for SNAP benefits;

(5) Is otherwise exempt from work requirements under section 6(d)(2) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as implemented in regulations at § 273.7(b); or

(6) Is pregnant.

(d) Regaining eligibility.

(1) An individual denied eligibility under paragraph (b) of this section, or who did not reapply for benefits because he was not meeting the work requirements under paragraph (b) of this section, shall regain eligibility to participate in SNAP if, as determined by the State agency, during any 30 consecutive days, he or she:

(i) Worked 80 or more hours;

(ii) Participated in and complied with the requirements of a work program for 80 or more hours;

(iii) Any combination of work and participation in a work program for a total of 80 hours; or participated in and complied with a workfare program; or

(iv) At State agency option, verifies that the he or she will meet one of the requirements in paragraphs (d)(1)(i), (d)(1)(ii), (d)(1)(iii), or (d)(1)(v) of this section, within the 30 days subsequent to application; or

(v) Becomes exempt.

(2) An individual regaining eligibility under paragraph (d)(1) of this section shall have benefits calculated as follows:

(i) For individuals regaining eligibility by working, participating in a work program, or combining hours worked and hours participating in a work program, the State agency may either prorate benefits from the day the 80 hours are completed or from the date of application, or

(ii) For individuals regaining eligibility by participating in a workfare program, and the workfare obligation is based on an estimated monthly allotment prorated back to the date of application, then the allotment issued must be prorated back to this date.

(3) There is no limit on how many times an individual may regain eligibility and subsequently maintain eligibility by meeting the work requirement.

(e) Additional three-month eligibility. An individual who regained eligibility under paragraph (d) of this section and who is no longer fulfilling the work requirement as defined in paragraph (a) of this section is eligible for a period of three consecutive countable months (as defined in paragraph (b) of this section), starting on the date the individual first notifies the State agency that he or she is no longer fulfilling the work requirement, unless the individual has been satisfying the work requirement by participating in a work or workfare program, in which case the period starts on the date the State agency notifies the individual that he or she is no longer meeting the work requirement. An individual shall not receive benefits under this paragraph (e) more than once in any three-year period.

(f) Waivers -

(1) General. The State agency, with the support of the chief executive officer of the State, may request FNS approval to temporarily waive the time limit for a group of individuals in the State in the area in which the individuals reside. To be considered for approval, the request must be supported by corresponding data or evidence demonstrating that the requested area:

(i) Has an unemployment rate of over 10 percent; or

(ii) Does not have a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment for the individuals.

(2) Core standards. FNS will approve waiver requests under paragraphs (f)(1)(i) and (ii) of this section that are supported by any one of the following:

(i) Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) or a BLS-cooperating agency that shows an area has a recent 12-month average unemployment rate over 10 percent; or

(ii) Data from the BLS or a BLS-cooperating agency that shows an area has a 24-month average unemployment rate 20 percent or more above the national rate for a recent 24-month period, but in no case may the 24-month average unemployment rate of the requested area be less than 6 percent. In order for the 24-month data period to be considered recent, the number of months from the end of the last month of the 24-month data period through the last month that the waiver would be effective must not exceed 21 months.

(3) Other data and evidence in an exceptional circumstance. FNS may approve waiver requests that are supported by data or evidence other than those listed under paragraph (f)(2) of this section if the request demonstrates an exceptional circumstance in an area. The request must demonstrate that the exceptional circumstance has caused a lack of sufficient jobs or an unemployment rate over 10 percent, for example data from the BLS or a BLS-cooperating agency that shows an area has a most recent three-month average unemployment rate over 10 percent. In addition, the request must demonstrate that the impact of the exceptional circumstance is ongoing at the time of the request. Supporting unemployment data provided by the State must rely on standard BLS data or methods.

(4) Definition of area. For the purposes of this paragraph, “area” means:

(i) An area considered a Labor Market Area (LMA) by DOL. The State agency must support a waiver for an LMA using corresponding LMA data from the BLS. If such corresponding data is unavailable, the State agency may obtain corresponding data by combining data from sub-LMA areas that are collectively considered to be a LMA by DOL;

(ii) The intrastate part of an interstate LMA. Intrastate parts of interstate LMAs may qualify for waivers based on data from the entire interstate LMA. If the State Agency's geographic boundaries are entirely within one interstate LMA, such as the District of Columbia, the entire State may qualify for a waiver based on data from the entire interstate LMA;

(iii) A reservation area or a U.S. Territory. Each of these is considered to be an area for the purposes of waivers.

(5) Duration of waiver approvals. In general, FNS will approve waivers for one year. FNS may approve waivers for a shorter period at the State agency's request. Waivers under paragraph (f)(2)(ii) of this section will be approved in accordance with paragraph (f)(2)(ii).

(6) Areas with limited data or evidence. Waiver requests for an area for which standard BLS data or data from a BLS-cooperating agency is limited or unavailable, such as a reservation area or U.S. Territory, are not required to conform to the criteria for approval under paragraphs (f)(2), (3), and (5) of this section. The supporting data or evidence provided by the State must be recent and must correspond to the requested area.

(i) FNS may approve waivers for these areas if the requests are supported by sufficient data or evidence, such as:

(A) Estimated unemployment rate based on available data from BLS and the U.S. Census Bureau;

(B) A low and declining employment-to-population ratio;

(C) A lack of jobs in declining occupations or industries; or

(D) An academic study or other publication describing the area as lacking a sufficient number of jobs to provide employment for its residents.

(ii) [Reserved]

(g) Discretionary exemptions.

(1) For the purpose of establishing the discretionary exemptions for each State agency, the following terms are defined:

(i) Caseload means the average monthly number of individuals receiving SNAP benefits during the 12-month period ending the preceding June 30.

(ii) Covered individual means a SNAP recipient, or an applicant denied eligibility for benefits solely because he or she received SNAP benefits during the 3 months of eligibility provided under paragraph (b) of this section, who:

(A) Is not exempt from the time limit under paragraph (c) of this section;

(B) Does not reside in an area covered by a waiver granted under paragraph (f) of this section;

(C) Is not fulfilling the work requirements as defined in paragraph (a)(1) of this section; and

(D) Is not receiving SNAP benefits under paragraph (e) of this section.

(2) Subject to paragraphs (h) and (i) of this section, a State agency may provide an exemption from the 3-month time limit of paragraph (b) of this section for covered individuals. Exemptions do not count towards a State agency's allocation if they are provided to an individual who is otherwise exempt from the time limit during that month.

(3) For each fiscal year, a State agency may provide a number of exemptions such that the average monthly number of exemptions in effect during the fiscal year does not exceed 12 percent of the number of covered individuals in the State, as estimated by FNS, based on FY 1996 quality control data and other factors FNS deems appropriate, and adjusted by FNS to reflect changes in:

(i) The State agency's caseload; and

(ii) FNS's estimate of changes in the proportion of SNAP recipients covered by waivers granted under paragraph (f) of this section.

(4) State agencies must not discriminate against any covered individual for reasons of age, race, color, sex, disability, religious creed, national origin, or political beliefs. Such discrimination is prohibited by this part, the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (Public Law 94-135), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-112, section 504), and title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000d). Enforcement action may be brought under any applicable Federal law. Title VI complaints will be processed in accord with 7 CFR part 15.

(h) Adjustments. FNS will make adjustments as follows:

(1) Caseload adjustments. FNS will adjust the number of exemptions estimated for a State agency under paragraph (g)(3) of this section during a fiscal year if the number of SNAP participants in the State varies from the State's caseload by more than 10 percent, as estimated by FNS.

(2) Exemption adjustments. During each fiscal year, FNS will adjust the number of exemptions available to a State agency based on the number of exemptions in effect in the State for the preceding fiscal year. In doing so, FNS will determine the State's exemption balance for the fiscal year (the total number of exemptions available to the State for the fiscal year).

(i) If the State agency did not use all of its exemption balance for the preceding fiscal year, FNS will add to the State agency's exemption balance a portion of the unused exemptions not to exceed 12 percent of the covered individuals in the State estimated by FNS for the preceding fiscal year.

(ii) If the State agency used more than its exemption balance for the preceding fiscal year, FNS will decrease the State agency's exemption balance by the corresponding number. If this decrease results in a negative exemption balance, the State agency must offset the negative balance using the new exemptions estimated by FNS for the subsequent fiscal year. If the negative exemption balance is not fully offset, FNS will hold the State liable for the remaining negative balance.

(i) Reporting requirement. The State agency will track the number of exemptions used each month and report this number to the regional office on a quarterly basis as an addendum to the quarterly Employment and Training Report (Form FNS-583) required by § 273.7(c)(8).

(j) Other Program rules. Nothing in this section will make an individual eligible for SNAP benefits if the individual is not otherwise eligible for benefits under the other provisions of this part and the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.

[Amdt. 379, 64 FR 48257, Sept. 3, 1999, as amended at 66 FR 4469, Jan. 17, 2001; 67 FR 41618, June 19, 2002; 71 FR 33384, June 9, 2006; 84 FR 66811, Dec. 5, 2019; 84 FR 66811, Dec. 5, 2020; 86 FR 410, Jan. 5, 2021]