Work rules for SNAP clients

If you get SNAP benefits and are between the ages of 16 and 59 you must meet the general SNAP work rules or the ABAWD work rules unless you are exempt. Learn more about the rules that may apply to you or a member of your household.

Federal and state regulations make work rules a condition of eligibility for SNAP benefits.

There are general SNAP work rules, and there are special rules for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents. These are called ABAWD work rules.

Below you can learn how to meet these work rules, if you might be exempt, and ways that you can further your career. 

You can also further your education and career while you meet your work rules through the DTA Pathways to Work program.

General SNAP work rules

Meeting the general SNAP work rules

To meet the general SNAP work rules, you must:

  • Register for work at application and every 12 months after initial registration, which is when you “recertify” for SNAP. You register when you sign the SNAP application or recertification form.

  • Give DTA information about your employment status when requested
  • Report to an employer if referred by DTA
  • Accept a legitimate offer of employment
  • Not quit a job of more than 30 hours a week or reduce work hours to less than 30 hours a week without good cause

If you must meet the general SNAP work rules, then you might also have to meet the ABAWD work program rules



You might not have to meet general SNAP work rules if you are considered “exempt.” You are exempt from the general SNAP work rules if you:

  • Are younger than 16 or older than 59
  • Are an applicant or recipient of TAFDC or EAEDC benefits
  • Are pregnant (in your second or third trimester)
  • Are physically or mentally unfit for employment (have a temporary or permanent disability or illness that interferes with your ability to work)
  • Work at least 30 hours per week on average or earn more than $217.50 per week
  • Attend school at least half-time
  • Take part in an employment and training program at least half-time
  • Are an unemployment applicant or recipient
  • Care for a child under age 6 or a person with a disability (this person does not need to live with you)
  • Take part in a substance abuse treatment program
  • Are 16 or 17 and are not the head of your SNAP household or

If we can't verify your exemption, we will ask you for verification.


Good cause

In general, good cause for failure to meet the general SNAP work rules includes:

  • Lack of suitable child care
  • Family crisis or emergency (such as a death, health emergency, or domestic violence)
  • Unreasonable employment situation or employment offer

You must submit verification of your good cause.


If you do not follow the general SNAP work rules

If you fail to follow the work rules without good cause, you will be ineligible for SNAP for a period of:

  • 3 months for the first time,
  • 6 months for the second time, and
  • 12 months for the third time.

Additional Resources

Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) work rules

Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the federal government has temporarily suspended the ABAWD work rules during this public health emergency. You will not be penalized if you cannot meet these work rules at this time.

If you are an Able Bodied Adult Without Dependents (ABAWD) between the ages of 18 and 49 and are not exempt from SNAP general work rules, ABAWD work rules might apply to you.

Note: If you are exempt from the general SNAP work rules, then you are also exempt from the ABAWD work rules.


How to meet the ABAWD work rules

There are three ways you can meet the ABAWD work program rules:

  1. Work 20 hours per week, averaged monthly (paid or unpaid work)
  2. Take part in an approved employment and training (E&T) program for 20 hours per week
  3. Volunteer at an approved public or non-profit organization for the specified number of hours required by your household.

If you already take part in an employment and training program, let us know. Complete the (English) ABAWD training program information request (Spanish) (Spanish) Solicitud de Información sobre el Programa de Capacitación ABAWD.

For more information about how the SNAP Path to Work program can help you get free job training or for information about approved volunteer sites call the SNAP Path to Work line at (888) 483-0255 or visit the DTA Pathways to Work webpage 


Exemptions from ABAWD work rules

There are exceptions to this rule. If one or more of the exemptions below apply to you, you do not have to meet the ABAWD work rules. If none of the exemptions apply, then you must meet the ABAWD work rules.

You are only eligible for 3 months of SNAP benefits without meeting the ABAWD work rules during a 36-month period. SNAP's current 36-month period (or ABAWD clock) is January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2020. 

You are exempt from the ABAWD work rules if you:

  • Are exempt from the general SNAP work rules
  • Are younger than 18 or older than 49
  • Live in an area of the state that is exempt as identified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). See section titled Waived Areas below
  • Live with a child under age 18 (this can be your own child or sibling, or the child of another family you live with but you must be in the same SNAP household)
  • Are pregnant (any stage of pregnancy)
  • Take part in a federally recognized refugee training program at least half-time
  • Are homeless and unable to work based on work rule screening responses
  • Are participating in non-qualifying activity through DTA’s Pathways to Work
  • Are working with a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) specialist to resolve CORI issues that interfere with your ability to work


You can use the ABAWD work exemption forms to tell us about your exemption(s). If we cannot verify your exemption, we will ask you for verification. 


If you do not follow the ABAWD work rules

If you fail to meet the ABAWD work rules for any 3 months, you will not be eligible for SNAP for the rest of the 36-month period unless you start meeting the requirement or become exempt from the rules.


Waived areas

Certain areas of Massachusetts are exempt from the ABAWD work rules. Areas are exempt if they have unemployment rates of over 10 percent, or there are not enough jobs for the individuals living there. You are exempt from the ABAWD work rules if you live in one of these "waived areas."

The current list of waived areas is effective January 1, 2020. Also see the 2020 ABAWD waiver map. This information is subject to change.

Wright v. DTA Settlement

The Department has agreed to a settlement in the Wright v. DTA lawsuit brought by SNAP clients subjected to the Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) work rules. During the week of October 12th, 2020, current and former SNAP clients included in the class will be sent a Notice of Settlement. This notice advises them of the lawsuit and their rights. The notice can be accessed in Spanish here


Additional Resources

Contact   for Work rules for SNAP clients


The DTA Assistance Line is open from 8:15 A.M. to 4:45 P.M.


DTA Document Processing Center (617) 887-8765

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