The California Department of Social Services CalFresh Branch request to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to waive the three-month CalFresh time limit for unemployed adults without minor children in ALL California counties has been approved.
Read USDA’s waiver approval letter. PDF
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, USDA enacted a national suspension of the time limit which will be in place until one month after the federal public health emergency declaration is lifted. The emergency declaration was recently extended and will be in place for at least another 90 days. After the suspension is lifted, the time limit will continue to be waived statewide until June 30, 2021.
It is important to note that this waiver was approved under ABAWD regulations in place prior to the release of the Final Rule, which revises the conditions under which FNS may approve requests to waive the time limit. Changes to waiver criteria established in the Final Rule were scheduled to take effect April 1, 2020. The Final Rule, however, is currently in litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. On March 13, 2020, the Court granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and a stay pending judicial review of the provisions related to waivers.
As a result, the currently approved waiver will be in effect until June 30, 2021, or until the date at which new waiver standards become effective, whichever occurs earlier. In the coming weeks, CDSS will issue an All County Letter with more information on the waiver approval and guidance for counties.
The state is to be commended for securing this waiver extension, which will waive the time limit during the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis. As food insecurity is rising in tandem with unemployment, it is vital that the harsh and punitive time limits be waived to alleviate hunger among Californians unable to secure employment.
The three-month CalFresh time limit for unemployed, childless adults, also known as “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWDs), is a federal law that was waived for many years due to high unemployment. Individuals considered to have ABAWD status may only receive CalFresh benefits for a total of three full months within a 36-month period, unless the person meets an exemption or complies with certain harsh “work requirements.” The rule has not been shown to improve employment outcomes, only to cut people off from vital food assistance while they are struggling to find steady employment.
Last year, the Trump Administration issued proposed rule a that would eliminate the flexibility states have always had to waive time limits on SNAP in areas with insufficient jobs for low-income workers. The public comment period for the proposed rule closed in April, and it is possible USDA will issue a final rule soon. If enacted as proposed, USDA estimates that 755,000 SNAP participants would be newly subject to the time limit, meaning if they can’t find and maintain employment at 20 hours per week, they will only be eligible for three months of SNAP benefits over three years. In California, that could mean as many as 400,000 people could lose vital food assistance while they are looking for work and struggling to get back on their feet. CFPA and our anti-hunger allies thank all of our partners and stakeholders who submitted comments opposing the proposed rule, which is an unwise expansion of an unfair and counterproductive policy. Stay tuned for updates on the the proposed rule at CFPA’s ABAWD Time Limit page, by following us at @CAFoodPolicy, and by signing up for our Action Alerts.
Questions? Contact Jared Call at 323.401.4972