Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents


An ABAWD is an able-bodied adult without dependents. Individuals that are considered ABAWDs are limited to three full months of CalFresh benefits in any 36-month period unless they are working or participating in a qualifying work activity for at least 20 hours per week, are exempt from the ABAWD time limit, or are living in a waived area.

Who is considered an ABAWD?

Anyone that answers “yes” to all of the following questions:

  • Are you receiving CalFresh benefits in San Francisco, San Mateo, or Santa Clara County?
  • Are you able to work?
  • Are you between the ages of 18 and 49?
  • Do you NOT live with a child under the age of 18?

If an individual answers YES to all these questions, they may have to follow new ABAWD rules to keep their CalFresh benefits.

California Counties Implementing the ABAWD Time Limit September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2019

ABAWD map of counties

ABAWD Time Limit Waivers

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A county, or an entire state, can be approved for a waiver of the ABAWD time limit if it meets federally established criteria for high unemployment or a lack of sufficient jobs.

Federal waiver criteria include the following:

  • A recent 12-month average unemployment rate over 10 percent;
  • A recent three-month average unemployment rate over 10 percent;
  • A historical seasonal unemployment rate over 10 percent;
  • Designation as a Labor Surplus Area (LSA) by the Department of Labor (DOL); or
  • Having a 24-month average unemployment rate 20 percent above the national average for the same 24-month period. Federal regulations require that this 24-month period may not be any earlier than the same 24-month period the DOL uses to designate LSAs for the current fiscal year.

California's current statewide waiver of the ABAWD time limit expires on August 31, 2018. Beginning September 1, 2018, California will implement the ABAWD time limit in three counties, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara. California's remaining 55 counties will maintain their ABAWD time limit waivers through August 31, 2019.

Quick Link
ABAWD Waivers

ABAWD Time Limit Exemptions

ABAWD TimeLimit Exemption

Some CalFresh recipients may be exempt from the ABAWD time limit. In general, individuals are not subject to the time limit if they are:

  1. Under 18 or over 49 years of age
  2. Residing in a CalFresh household with a household member under age 18
  3. Pregnant
  4. Exempt from CalFresh work registration requirements. Individuals are exempt from CalFresh work registration requirements if they are:
    1. Attending school at least half-time
    2. Physically or mentally unable to work
    3. Complying with CalWORKs Welfare to Work requirements
    4. Caring for a dependent child under the age of 6
    5. Caring for an incapacitated person
    6. Receiving, or have applied for, unemployment
    7. Participating in a drug or alcohol treatment program
    8. Employed or self-employed for a minimum of 30 hours per week
  5. Determined physically or mentally unable to work at least 20 hours per week on average (even if temporarily). Individuals may be considered physically or mentally unable to work if they are:
    1. Receiving, or have applied for, temporary or permanent public or private disability benefits
    2. Obviously unable to work based on the County’s observation. If an individual is facing one of the following barriers, they may be determined unable to work:
      1. Chronic homelessness
      2. Alcohol or drug addiction
      3. Domestic Violence
    3. Medically-certified as physically or mentally unable to work
  6. Participating in an Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) training program for at least half time

Satisfying the ABAWD Work Requirement

ABAWD Work Requirement

Individuals who are considered ABAWDs who do not qualify for an exemption or live in a waived area are subject to the ABAWD time limit and must satisfy the work requirement to maintain CalFresh eligibility for more than three full months within the 36-month period. There are multiple ways an ABAWD may satisfy the work requirement. Options to satisfy the work requirement include, but are not limited to:

  1. Employment
    1. Paid Employment
    2. Self-Employment
    3. In-Kind Work – work in exchange for goods and services
  2. Participating in qualifying work activities such as
    1. CalFresh Employment and Training
    2. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity ACT (WIOA) programs
    3. Programs under section 236 of the Trade ACT of 1974
    4. Community Service or Volunteer Work
  3. Workfare (if available in your county)

For more information on options available to satisfy the ABAWD work requirement, please contact your county.

ABAWD Eligibility


An ABAWD who is subject to the time limit and has used their three full months of benefits during the 36-month period, known as countable months, will no longer be eligible to receive CalFresh benefits. The individual will remain ineligible for CalFresh for the remainder of the 36-month period unless they regain eligibility, qualify for an ABAWD exemption, or move to a waived county or area.

To regain eligibility, an individual must performone of the following:

  • Satisfy the ABAWD work requirement for any consecutive 30-day period;
  • Qualify for an ABAWD exemption for any part of the month;
  • Move to a waived area; or
  • Reach the end of the 36-month period and reapply for CalFresh benefits.

There is no limit on the number of times an ABAWD who is subject to the time limit may regain eligibility within the 36-month period.