By now you’ve probably heard that parts of Washington State lost their ‘ABAWD Waiver’ at the start of 2016. This means that certain SNAP recipients in King, Snohomish and parts of Pierce Counties may have lost their benefits after a three month time limit on April 1. Generally, able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) are between the ages of 18 and 50, able to work and not receiving benefits in the same household as a child. These individuals are expected to be participating in job training, unpaid volunteer work, or paid work in order to continue receiving their benefits past the 3 month timeline.
Until the start of this year, all of Washington State qualified for a waiver of this requirement due to high unemployment. As unemployment has decreased and job availability has increased in certain areas, the statewide waiver was removed. In many parts of the state, however, unemployment still remains high and jobs are challenging to find. Moving forward, we anticipate that other areas of the state will lose waivers as economic conditions continue to improve. Some of the criteria that states can use when applying for waivers for an area include:
- recent 12-month unemployment rate above 10 percent;
- A recent 3-month unemployment rate above 10 percent;
- Designation as Labor Surplus Area (LSA) by the Department of Labor;
- Qualification for extended unemployment benefits; or
- A recent 24-month average unemployment rate 20 percent above the national average for the same 24-month period.
In our state, DSHS will be reviewing eligibility for ABAWD waivers annually, typically in alignment with the Federal Fiscal Year which starts October 1. Moving forward they will be working with experts from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to maximize the areas covered under the waivers to ensure as many individuals continue to receive their SNAP benefits with limited interruption. Any updates to areas with waivers should be known ahead of the October 1 changes.
DSHS has also taken the step to opt in to many of the options provided by the federal government for expanding those who are not subject to the timeline including chronically homeless and caring for someone who is incapacitated. These expansions, along with a job training program available through community organizations and technical and community colleges throughout the state, mean that we anticipate the impact of losing waivers will be minimal in Washington compared with many other states.