For most people, there is no time limit for how long residents can receive SNAP benefits, yet federal rules do limit this food assistance to 3 months in a 36-month period for people age 18 through 49 who are able to work and have no dependents, also known as ABAWDs. Federal regulations allow State SNAP agencies to temporarily waive the time limit for ABAWDs living in areas that have a high unemployment rate or a lack of sufficient jobs.
A recently promulgated USDA regulation changed the criteria that states are able to use to demonstrate "lack of sufficient jobs" and what constitutes an "area" for the purposes of ABAWD time limit waiver requests and approvals. As a result of this new criteria, effective April 1, 2020, the following 12 cities and towns in RI will no longer be waived from the ABAWD work requirements/time limits: Central Falls, Charlestown, East Providence, Johnston, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Scituate, Warren, Westerly, West Warwick and Woonsocket.
There will be only one RI town, New Shoreham (Block Island), that will continue to be waived. When this regulation takes effect on April 1, 2020, approximately 7,779 individuals in Rhode Island will be newly subjected to the ABAWD time limits/work requirements.
DHS is committed to helping all of its customers, and we have an outreach plan in place to communicate the change as well as explain other opportunities for those who are impacted by the loss of this exemption status. We are also engaging our many community partners and existing programs at other Rhode Island agencies to help these individuals and families to self-sufficiency. Moving all to a place where they can thrive remains the Department's goal.
All SNAP recipients living in the impacted communities will receive a notice during the last week of February to inform them of the change for ABAWDs in their community. It includes a stuffer explaining in simpler terms how the change may impact the ABAWD individuals in the household that are not meeting the work requirements.
Please visit the SNAP ABAWDs page (link is below) on our DHS website that answers the most common questions ABAWDs and others may have. It also includes helpful resources, forms that may be needed and details about our appeals process. On this page, community partners can locate the "Community Partner Unfit for Work Form" which can be completed and provided to DHS to assist with determining if an individual is exempt from the time limit due to being "unfit for work".
ABAWDs meeting the work requirements are not subject to the time limit. Work requirements can be met by working, volunteering and/or participating in a SNAP Employment & Training Program for 20 hours per week, or participating in a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funded program. Participants interested in SNAP Employment & Training can visit the link below to see a list of available programs/providers, or reach out to DHS to inquire about E&T opportunities.