Can you get on Food Stamps without a job?

If you are trying to get SNAP EBT benefits and want to know if you need to have a job to get benefits, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we answer the popular question, “Can you get on food stamps without a job?”

If you are applying for food stamps, or are currently receiving SNAP benefits, it is important to understand the general work requirements. This will not only help you get benefits but if you are currently receiving SNAP, it will help you keep your benefits.

Additionally, if you are considered an Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents (ABAWDs), there are special rules that apply to you.

If you fail to meet the ABAWD rules, you will be disqualified from the SNAP program for a period of time.

In this article, we will provide you with everything you need to know about the work rules, including exceptions.

In addition, we will provide you with a list of non-work-related activities you can sign up for to meet the work requirements.

Also, we will discuss the penalties that apply if you do not comply with the general work requirements and the special rules for ABAWDs.

Continue reading below for the SNAP Work Requirements, including if you can get on food stamps without a job.

In this article, we will cover:

  • What are the SNAP Work Requirements?
  • Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents
  • General SNAP Work Requirements
  • Changes to SNAP ABAWD Work Requirements
  • Who is Exempted from the ABAWD requirement?
  • ​Employment and Training for SNAP Recipients
  • SNAP ABAWD Work Requirements FAQs

Food Stamps without a JobCan you get on Food Stamps without a job?

Yes, you can get food stamps benefits without a job. However, depending on your age and physical capabilities, you may be required to meet certain work requirements set by the USDA.

The Food Stamps Work Requirements apply to any individual between the ages of 16 and 59. 

To meet the SNAP Work Requirements, you do not necessarily have to have a job. There are also activities that can qualify, including volunteer work and employment and training programs.

If the food stamps work requirements apply to you, you must be working or participating in a training program at least 20 hours a week to receive benefits.

To learn more about the Food Stamps Work Requirements, including who is exempt from the requirements, then continue reading below.

Types of SNAP Work Requirements

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has two sets of work requirements. 

The first is the general work requirements for anyone between the ages of 16 and 59. The second is the work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents, also referred to as ABAWDs.

ABAWDs are defined as anyone between the ages of 18 and 49, who is able to work, and doesn’t have any dependents (children).

If you are considered an ABAWD, then you may be required to meet BOTH the general and ABAWD work requirements to receive food stamps in your state.

To learn more about the general and ABAWD work requirements, continue reading below.

General Food Stamps Work Requirements for 2022

General Food Stamps Work Requirements

If you are age 16 – 59 and able to work, you will likely need to meet the general work requirements to get SNAP benefits.

What are the SNAP Work Requirements?

The work requirements to receive monthly food stamp benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are as follows.

To meet the General Food Stamps Work Requirements you must be:

  • Registering for work
  • Participating in a SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) Program
  • Completing workfare assigned by your state SNAP agency
  • Not voluntarily reducing work hours below 30hrs per week
  • Not voluntarily quitting a job without good reason
  • Accepting a suitable job with 30 hours of work per week

You must meet one of the list Food Stamp Work Requirements to qualify for SNAP benefits or to continue receiving monthly benefits.

What happens if I do not meet the SNAP Work Requirements?

If you fail to meet the food stamp work requirements, you will be denied benefits.

Failure to meet the SNAP Work Requirements on multiple occasions will result in the following penalties:

  • First Time = Lose SNAP benefits for One (1) Month
  • Second Time = Lose Food Stamp benefits for Three (3) Months
  • Third Time = Lose SNAP benefits for Six (6) Months

If you fail the work requirements more than three times, you may be disqualified from receiving food stamp benefits forever.

In addition, some states have harsher penalties then the ones listed above. Check with your individual state for any changes to work requirement penalties. 

In order to start receiving food stamps again, you must meet the SNAP work requirements.

Who is exempt from Food Stamps Work Requirements?

There are some cases where you may be exempt from meeting the Food Stamps Work Requirements. 

You are excused from the general work requirements if you are:

  • Working at least 30 hours a week (or earning wages at least equal to the Federal minimum wage multiplied by 30 hours)
  • Meeting work requirements for another program (TANF or Unemployment)
  • Taking care of a child under 6 or an incapacitated person
  • Unable to work due to a physical or mental limitation
  • Participating regularly in an alcohol or drug treatment program
  • Studying in school or a training program at least half-time (college students are subject to other eligibility rules) 

Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD)

For those individuals ages 18–49, able to work, and do not have children, you are considered an Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents (ABAWD). 

If this applies to you, you will need to meet BOTH the general food stamps work requirements and the ABAWD work requirements.

In order to receive SNAP benefits beyond the ABAWD time limit, you must meet both work requirement criteria.

How long is the ABAWD time limit?

The time limit for ABAWDs is 3 months in a 3-year period.

This means that if you do not meet both sets of work requirements, you will not be eligible to receive food stamp benefits for more than 3 months in any given 3-year period.

In addition, able-bodied adults without dependents are required to work or participate in a work program for at least 20 hours per week. 

However, states can ask the federal government to waive time limits and work requirements for people subject to ABAWD rules who live in areas with high unemployment or insufficient jobs.

Continue reading below for the SNAP Work Requirements, including rules for ABAWDs.

ABAWD Work Requirements

SNAP recipients who are able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) must meet additional work requirements unless a waiver has been passed in their area.

You can meet the ABAWD Work Requirement by doing any one of the following:

  • Working at least 80 hours a month – work can be for pay, for goods or services, unpaid, or volunteer.
  • Participating in a Work Program at least 80 hours a month – includes the SNAP Employment and Training or another federal, state, or local work program.
  • Participating in a Work Program for a combined total of at least 80 hours per month.
  • Involved in workfare for the number of hours assigned to you each month (the number of hours will depend on the amount of your SNAP benefit).

Changes to the ABAWD Work Requirements

Able-bodied adults without dependents are subject to the 3 months in a 3-year time limit unless they:

  • Qualify for an “exemption”
  • Work or participate in a work program at least 20 hours per week (averaged monthly)
  • Are in school or training at least half-time (must meet other eligibility rules for students)
  • Volunteer or perform community service to “work” for benefits, usually for 26 hours per month
  • Live in an area waived due to insufficient jobs

Community service is unpaid or volunteer work at a non-profit or religious organization or government site.

The number of volunteer hours required is based on your monthly SNAP benefit divided by the state minimum wage – $7.25 per hour.

For example, someone receiving $194 in SNAP per month must volunteer 26 hours/month – or 6 ½ hours/week

Additionally, your state’s food stamps office may be able to provide “special allowances” to pay for your transportation to a community service site.

However, the community organization needs to sign the Community Service Agency Agreement.

If you fail to complete any of the described work requirements, you will only receive three months of SNAP benefits during a fixed three-year period.

The three-year period is the same for everyone.

The current period started January 1, 2018 and will run through December 31, 2020.

Everyone who uses up their three months of SNAP during this period will get another set of three months starting January 1, 2021.

However, similar to the general food stamps work requirements, there are exemptions to the work rules for ABAWDs. To find out who does not have to meet the ABAWD work requirements, see below. 

ABAWD Exemptions for Food Stamps

There are particular cases in which an ABAWD does not have to meet the Work Requirement rules. If one of the following ABAWD Food Stamps Work Exemptions applies to you, you can receive food stamps for more than three months.

You are excused from the ABAWD work requirement and time limit if you are:

  • Unable to work due to a physical or mental limitation
  • Are currently Pregnant
  • Have someone under 18 in your SNAP household
  • Excused from the general SNAP work requirements

What Happens if you fail the ABAWD Work Requirements?

If you fail to meet the ABAWD work requirements, you will lose your benefits once your three-month period has been exhausted. You must meet the ABAWD food stamps work requirements to receive SNAP benefits beyond the 3-month period. 

At that point, to receive SNAP benefits again you must:

  1. Meet the ABAWD work requirement for a 30-day period, or
  2. become excused by filing a waiver with your state.

Otherwise, you need to wait until your 3-year period restarts. At that time, you will be able to get another three months of benefits until the ABAWD time limit expires.

ABAWD Work Requirement FAQs

Here are the most frequently asked questions about Food Stamps Work Requirements for ABAWDs.

When did the ABAWD 3-month rule come into effect?

Congress created the 3-month time limit rule as part of welfare reform in 1996.

When does the 3-month period run?

The 3-month clock starts with the first full month of SNAP benefits and adds to the count each full month when benefits are received.

  • If SNAP benefits are not received each month, the clock stops
  • The clock ends the last day of the third month

Once an ABAWD receives 3 countable months of benefits, he/she will not be eligible again until:

  • The new three-year fixed period begins, OR
  • They regain eligibility by meeting an exemption or the work and/or community
    service requirement
  • They can get another 3 months if they’ve worked 80 hours/month (even if they
    leave the job)

How can I meet the Non-Work 20 hour per week requirement?

There are several ways you can still meet the SNAP work requirements and get food stamps without a job. The Non-Work requirement allows you to do just that.

Activities that can meet 20 hours/week requirement (alone or in combination) include:

  • Advanced degree (college) classes
  • Skill/Vocational training classes
  • English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) classes
  • Adult Basic Education (ABE)/ Literacy classes
  • GED/High school remediation classes
  • Work experience/vocational experience
  • Programs through Career Links (WIOA programs)
  • Community service/ workfare

Also, those enrolled in school at least half time are exempt from the ABAWD requirements. Therefore, they do not need to combine hours with other activities.

Food Stamps without a Job Summary

Here’s the bottom line about Food Stamps Work Requirements

All adults ages 16 to 59 who are not otherwise exempt must comply with a general work requirement to receive SNAP benefits.

Able-bodied adults without dependents are required to work or participate in a work program for at least 20 hours per week in order to receive SNAP benefits for more than 3 months in a 36-month period.

More Questions?

We hope this post on the popular question, “Can you get on Food Stamps without a job” was helpful to you.

For more help with the work requirements for SNAP, check out our complete guide on the Food Stamps Work Requirements for 2022.

If you have any additional questions about the food stamps program or your SNAP EBT benefits, please let us know in the comments section below.

For more help on what and where you can use your EBT Card, check out our other articles here:

EBT Card Discounts and Freebies
Grocery Stores that Accept EBT Online for Delivery
Fast Food Restaurants that Accept SNAP EBT
Gas Stations that Accept EBT

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