The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, signed into law by President Joe Biden in June, brings significant changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). One notable change that has already been implemented is the adjustment to the age limit for “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWDs). Previously, individuals aged 18 to 49 were required to demonstrate either 80 hours of work per month or enrollment in a training program to qualify for SNAP benefits. Now, with the new legislation in effect, this age limit has been raised to 50 years old.
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), as part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) outlines a gradual increase in the ABAWD time limit age as part of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. On October 1, 2023, the age limit will rise to 52, and by October 1, 2024, it will further increase to 54. It’s important to note that these age and exemption adjustments are temporary measures and are set to remain in effect until October 1, 2030. Alongside these age changes, the legislation also provides guidance on defining exempt populations and amends requirements for disclosing information to the public, as well as revisiting the food stamps‘ purpose statement.
Two More Changes Coming to the SNAP Program
In a USDA statement released on June 9, the Food and Resource Action (FRA) introduces a significant change regarding transparency. Under Section 314, known as Waiver Transparency, the FRA mandates that the USDA must now publicly disclose state waiver requests and the agency’s approvals. This disclosure requirement entails making state requests to waive the ABAWD (Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents) time limit and related agency waiver approvals accessible to the public within 30 days after the date of enactment.
Additionally, the FRA brings about a revised purpose statement for the SNAP program, formerly known as the food stamp program. The updated purpose statement now emphasizes SNAP’s role in assisting low-income adults in securing employment and increasing their earnings. This employment and income growth, in conjunction with program benefits, enables low-income households to enhance their access to a more nutritious diet through regular food purchasing channels, ultimately boosting food purchasing power for all eligible households who seek participation.
What is the timeline for the changes to SNAP benefits?
The timeline for the changes to SNAP benefits in 2023 involves several key dates and changes:
- Cost-of-Living Adjustment: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are adjusted annually based on the rate of inflation. The increase in payments for 2023, which started on Oct. 1, 2022, was 12.5%. This means that households receiving $500 in SNAP benefits from Oct. 1, 2021, to Sep. 30, 2022, saw an increase to $562.50 for this year.
- Social Security Adjustment: The Social Security adjustment, which impacts SNAP households that also receive Social Security benefits, went into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. The impact on SNAP benefit amounts for households that also receive Social Security benefits started in January 2023 (in states that already ended emergency allotments) and could be as late as March 2023 (in states and territories that are still providing emergency allotments).
- State Legislation: Some states may opt to use their own funds to provide residents with benefits that are higher than the federal minimum. For example, starting in March 2023, SNAP participants in New Jersey will receive a minimum of $95 a month in food assistance benefits, an increase of $72 per month over the federal minimum of $23 month.
- Expanded Work Requirements: Changes to food stamps would actually increase federal spending by about $2.1 billion over the 2023 to 2033 period. That’s because even with expanded work requirements for people ages 50-54, veterans and those experiencing homelessness are still exempt.
SNAP Program to Set Exemptions For These Particular Groups
The USDA introduced some other changes to the food stamps program, particularly for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs). Under the new regulations effective from October 1, state agencies administering SNAP benefits will face stricter limitations on granting exemptions to ABAWDs from work requirements. Previously, state agencies could grant discretionary exemptions for up to 12% of the ABAWD caseload, but this limit will now decrease to 8%. Additionally, states will no longer be allowed to carry over unused discretionary exemptions for more than one year.
However, amidst these changes, the USDA has expanded exemptions to include certain vulnerable groups. Homeless individuals, veterans, and young adults aged 18 to 24 who have aged out of foster care will be exempt from ABAWD work requirements and time limits. Furthermore, individuals unable to work due to physical or mental limitations, pregnancy, or having dependents under 18 in their household remain exempt.
The USDA has provided clear criteria for defining these exempt populations, ensuring that those who genuinely require assistance receive the necessary support. These changes aim to strike a balance between encouraging self-sufficiency and safeguarding the well-being of vulnerable individuals in the SNAP program.
What exemptions will be allowed for ABAWDs under the new SNAP regulations?
Individuals may be excused from these requirements if they are:
- Already 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, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or unemployment compensation
- Regularly participating in an alcohol or drug treatment program
- Studying in school or a training program at least half-time
The recently enacted Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 added new exemptions for veterans, homeless individuals, and individuals who are 24 years of age or younger and were in foster care on their 18th birthday