When you apply for food stamps in California, you are required by law to work or participate in a work program, unless you are exempted. California food stamps (CalFresh) work requirements are based on the federal SNAP work requirements as set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA is the federal agency with oversight over the food stamps program.

Each state participating in the SNAP program must comply with the USDA work requirements.

However, states are free to implement additional work requirements for SNAP Eligibility, in addition to the minimum standards set by the USDA.

In this post, we will explain in detail what the SNAP work requirements are for the state of California.

This includes additional requirements for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD).

Also, we will highlight what happens when you fail to meet the work requirements while receiving food stamps in California.

Next, we will provide a summary of the CalFresh E&T Program.

However, we will first show the federal SNAP work requirements as required by the USDA.

"CalFresh Work Requirements"

Food Stamps Work Requirements by the USDA

Below is a summary of the SNAP work requirements by the USDA:

In general, SNAP applicants must meet work requirements to be eligible for benefits.

These work requirements include:

  • Registering for work;
  • Not voluntarily quitting a job or reducing hours;
  • Taking a job if offered; and
  • Participating in employment and training programs, if assigned by your CalFresh office.

Failure to comply with these requirements can result in disqualification from the SNAP program.

Additional Requirements for ABAWDs

In addition, able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) are required to work or participate in a work program for at least 20 hours per week in order to receive SNAP benefits for more than 3 months in a 36-month period.

The following groups are exempted from the ABAWD time limit requirement:

  • Children;
  • Seniors;
  • Pregnant women; and
  • People who are exempt for physical or mental health reasons.

California Work Requirements

Below is a summary of the SNAP work requirements in the state of California:

All SNAP recipients ages 16 to 59 are required to work unless they meet at least one of these conditions:

  • Responsible for the care of a child under the age of six;
  • Unable to work due to a physical or mental health condition;
  • Needed to provide care for an incapacitated individual; or
  • Applying for or receiving unemployment insurance benefits; or
  • A student enrolled at least half-time in school, a training program, or an institution of higher education; or
  • A regular participant in a drug addiction or alcoholic treatment or rehabilitation program.
  • Employed or self-employed 30 or more hours per week or earning at least the equivalent of 30 times the federal minimum wage on a weekly basis.

Additional Requirements for ABAWDs

ABAWD stands for “able-bodied adult without dependents.”

An ABAWD is a person who is applying for, or receiving, CalFresh benefits and is between the ages of 18 and 49, is able to work, and does not have dependent children.

An ABAWD is limited to receiving three months of CalFresh benefits within a 36-month period unless he/she:

  • Is exempt from the ABAWD Time Limit;
  • Satisfies the CalFresh work requirement;
  • Qualifies for an additional three consecutive month period of eligibility;
  • Receives a discretionary exemption; or
  • Lives in a county or area with a waiver of the ABAWD Time Limit.

Who is Exempt from the CalFresh ABAWD Time Limit?

CalFresh applicants or recipients who meet the criteria for an ABAWD exemption are not subject to the Time Limit and are not required to satisfy the work requirements to maintain CalFresh eligibility.

ABAWDs may be exempt from the work requirement if they:

  • Unable to work due to chronic homelessness
  • Pregnant
  • Living with a child under the age of 18
  • Earning at least $218 a week
  • Participating in a CalWORKs work program
  • Caring for a child under age 6 or anyone who is ill or disabled
  • Applying for or getting unemployment insurance
  • Applying for or getting disability benefits or veterans’ disability
  • Unable to work due to domestic violence
  • Struggling with or receiving treatment for drugs or alcohol
  • Going to a school, college/university, or training program at least half-time, including an Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) training program
  • Have a physical, mental, or emotional disability that stops you from working

If one of these exemptions applies to you or a member of your household, please fill out an ABAWD Time Limit Exemption Screening form and provide it to your worker.

How to meet the CalFresh Work Requirements

If you are an ABAWD and are not exempt from working, you will be required to participate in approved activities to continue receiving CalFresh benefits.

You can meet work requirements by doing one or a combination of the following:

  • Working at least 20 hours per week, on average 80 hours per month
  • Participating in a CalFresh Employment & Training or other approved employment training program for at least 20 hours per week.
  • Volunteering or performing community service for at least 20 hours per week

ABAWDs Requirement Suspension

Due to a federal waiver for the State of California, CalFresh recipients (except those receiving General Relief) are not required to meet the Work Rules stated above.

When the ABAWD waiver ends, some CalFresh recipients will be required to meet federal work requirements.

The rules apply to any CalFresh recipient between the ages of 18-49 without a child living in the home.

What is the CalFresh SNAP E&T Program?

CalFresh Employment and Training (CalFresh E&T) is overseen by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and administered locally through counties.

Counties are not mandated to offer a CalFresh E&T program but may choose to do so voluntarily.

The purpose of the program is to increase the employment and earning capacity of CalFresh recipients.

This includes:

  • Increase job placement, retention, and wages;
  • Increase CalFresh E&T participation across a dynamic mix of people, communities, and cultures;
  • Lead an efficient and effective customer-focused E&T program.
  • Increase employability by removing barriers to employment;
  • Increase skills attainment and credentialing; and

For more information about the CalFresh E&T program in your county, click here.

CalFresh Work Requirements Summary

We hope this post on CalFresh Work Requirements was helpful.

If you have further questions about CalFresh or California EBT Card, please let us know in the comments section below.

Also, be sure to check out our other articles about California SNAP and EBT, including:

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