New USDA Rule Restricts SNAP Work Requirement Waivers

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA FN) has finalized a rule that would narrow the ability for states to waive work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) participating in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The change, which goes into effect on April 1, will impact 76% of counties nationwide and ultimately result in 224,000 individuals immediately losing access to SNAP and approximately 700,000 individuals losing access later this year.

A summary of the rule changes from NACo County News:

  • Narrows the unemployment threshold: Areas are currently eligible for waivers when their unemployment rate exceeds the national average by 20 percent over a 24-month period or reaches an average rate of at least 10 percent over a 12-month period. The final rule does not alter the latter standard, but it adds a floor to the former: areas exceeding the national average by 20 percent must also have at least 6 percent unemployment over that same period. USDA estimates that 371 counties will lose area-waiver eligibility under this provision.
  • Eliminates Extended Unemployment Benefit criterion: The rule will also eliminate the existing option for states to qualify for waivers when, due to rapid spikes in unemployment (as often happens during a recession) they qualify for extra federal unemployment benefits under the U.S. Department of Labor (referred to as Extended Unemployment Benefits, or EUB). USDA acknowledges that though no states currently qualify for EUB, eliminating it as a criterion that could delay waiver approval during a national or state economic downturn.
  • Removes flexibility for geographic areas eligible for waivers: Under the final rule, states will also no longer be able to request state-wide or county-level waivers but instead must apply to exempt Labor Market Areas as defined by the Department of Labor. While some single counties constitute a whole LMA, others are grouped together. USDA estimates that 408 counties will lose area-waiver eligibility due to these changes.
  • Limits carryover options: Under current law, states can exempt up to 12 percent of their ABAWD population from work each year. If states do not use these exemptions, they can be “rolled over” for future years, which has permitted states to build up large surpluses of exemptions, which may then be used during economic downturns. The final rule limits this carry-over allowance to just one year, meaning states and counties will have fewer exemptions stored in the event of a future economic downturn. Unlike other provisions of this rule, the carry-over limitation will not take effect until Oct. 1.

For more information:

USDA finalizes rule expanding SNAP work requirements (NACo County News)