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ABAWD work program rules

An ABAWD is an Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents between the ages of 18 and 49. Learn more about the ABAWD work program rules and if they apply to you or a household member.

Federal and state regulations make work rules a condition of eligibility for SNAP benefits. In Massachusetts, this rule went back into effect January 1, 2016. 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 program rules. If you do not meet any of the exemptions, then you must meet the ABAWD work program rules. If you fail to meet the ABAWD work program rules, you are only eligible for 3 months of SNAP benefits during a 36-month period. SNAP's current 36-month period (or clock) is January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2017. 

If you are exempt from the general SNAP work rules, then you are already exempt from the ABAWD work program rules.



You are exempt from the ABAWD work program rules if you:

  • are an applicant or recipient of TAFDC or EAEDC benefits
  • get disability benefits from a government or private source
  • live in an area of the state that is exempt as identified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • 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 is in your SNAP case)
  • are pregnant (any stage of pregnancy)
  • are physically or mentally unable to work 20 hours per week (temporarily or permanently) 
  • work at least 30 hours per week on average or earn at least $217.50 per week
  • attend school at least half-time
  • take part in a federally recognized refugee training program at least half-time
  • are an unemployment applicant or recipient
  • are homeless and unable to work based on work rule screening responses
  • 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

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

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Waived areas

Areas of Massachusetts that have unemployment rates of over 10 percent are included in the waiver. Areas of Massachusetts that do not have enough jobs for the individuals living there are included in the waiver. This means that if you are a resident of one of the listed areas, you are exempt from the ABAWD work program rules.

This information can change every year. The current list of waived areas is effective January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017. Some areas that qualified for this waiver in 2017 no longer qualify in 2018. 

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How does an able-bodied individual meet the work program rules?

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

  • Work 20 hours per week, averaged monthly (paid or unpaid work)
  • Take part 20 hours per week in an approved employment and training (E&T) program
  • Volunteer at an approved site for the specified number of hours required by your household

If you already take part in an E&T program, let us know. Complete the ABAWD training program information request form.

For more information about approved sites or volunteer options call the SNAP Path to Work line at (888) 483-0255 or visit the SNAP Path to Work website

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Become a provider for ABAWD volunteers

Non-profits can help SNAP participants meet the ABAWD work program rules. SNAP participants can volunteer to meet the ABAWD work program rules. By volunteering, an ABAWD gains valuable work experience. 

If you want to host ABAWD volunteers, complete the questionnaire. Send the completed form to DTA SNAP E&T Unit.

  • By mail:
    DTA SNAP E&T Unit
    600 Washington Street
    Boston, MA. 02111
  • By fax:
    DTA SNAP E&T Unit
    (617) 348-5093

If you have questions or concerns, call the SNAP Path to Work line at (888) 483-0255.

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