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Government Aid and Services
SNAP Work Requirements and Time Limits

If you receive NJ SNAP (food stamps), there are two sets of work rules that may apply to you. Whether or not these work rules apply to you will depend on your age and your circumstances. There is a “general work requirement” that applies to most adults (part one of this article). There is also another set of rules about work and time limits that apply only to “Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents” or ABAWDS (part two). While most SNAP households have to comply with the general work rules, only a smaller group of adults must comply with ABAWD rules.

1. Employment and Training Requirements

What is the general work requirement? Does it apply to me?

NJ SNAP has a general “work registration” requirement that applies to most people between the ages of 16 and 59. You are exempt from this requirement if: 

  • You are a parent or other household member caring for a child under six or for an incapacitated person (only one adult per household can be exempt as the caregiver).
  • You are enrolled at least half-time in any school, training program, or institution of higher education.
  • You are physically or mentally “unfit for employment.” If your disability is not evident to the SNAP agency, it can be verified by a statement from your doctor or psychologist, or by your receipt of disability benefits from Social Security, NJ temporary disability benefits, or an employer/private disability program.
  • You are employed or self-employed at least 30 hours per week or receiving weekly earnings equal to the federal minimum wage multiplied by 30 hours (currently, $217.50 per week.) This includes migrant and seasonal farm workers who are under contract or similar written agreement with an employer or crew chief to begin employment within 30 days.
  • You regularly participate in a substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation program, which has been certified as such by the Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
  • You participate in a WFNJ/TANF work or training activity.
  • You receive or have applied for unemployment benefits.
  • You are a pregnant woman in your third trimester.

I’m not exempt. What does that mean?

If you are not exempt, you must sign a work registration form and agree to participate in employment and training activities. This means that you will be referred to the local One Stop center and you may be assigned to additional work programs. If you are required to participate in a work program, the agency must provide you with transportation assistance and child care assistance if needed, or exempt you if they can’t. You must agree to accept suitable work, if offered. Also, you must agree not to voluntarily quit a job or reduce your work hours to less than 30 hours per week, unless you have good cause.

If the SNAP office believes that you are not complying with the work requirements, they must send you a written notice, telling you that your benefits will be reduced or stopped unless you can show that you have complied with the work rules or if you have good cause for not complying.

If you don’t comply with the work requirements and don’t have a good reason for not participating in the work program, you will be sanctioned. This means that your benefits will stop for a period of time. If you are the only one in your household, the benefits will stop entirely. If you are receiving SNAP benefits with others, then the SNAP benefit will be reduced by your share. The length of the sanction depends on whether this is your first sanction. For a first sanction, you will be disqualified for a minimum of one month. For a second sanction, you will be disqualified for a minimum of three months. For a third sanction, you will be disqualified for at least six months. In order to end a sanction, you must either comply with the work program or show that you are exempt from the work requirement.

What if I disagree with the SNAP agency decision?

If you believe that are being wrongly sanctioned or that you should be exempt from the work requirements, you can ask for a fair hearing to challenge the SNAP agency’s actions. If you appeal within 15 days of the date of the notice, you can get SNAP during the appeal.

Ask for a Fair Hearing

  • Call the State Fair Hearings Hotline at 1-800-792-9773.
  • Put it in writing. (If you go to the agency office to ask for a hearing, you should still put your request in writing, keep a copy for yourself, and get a receipt. That way, you will have proof that you asked for the hearing.)
  • Call the welfare office. Speak with your SNAP caseworker or with the Fair Hearing Liaison and tell them that you want a hearing. Make sure you get the name of the person you speak to, and write it down. Ask them to send you a letter confirming that you asked for the hearing.

If you want to stop the welfare office from changing your SNAP benefits while you wait for a hearing, you must ask for a hearing within 15 days of the day you get notice of a change in your case. Make sure that you say that you want your benefits to continue when you ask for the hearing. (If you lose your appeal, you will have to pay back the extra benefits . Usually, the SNAP office will take this out of future benefits you may receive each month until it is paid back.)

If you don’t ask for the hearing right away, you still have up to 90 days from the date of the SNAP office decision to ask for a hearing, but your benefits won’t continue while you wait for the hearing in that case.

2. Special Time Limits and Work Requirements for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs)

Most NJ SNAP households have general work requirements in the SNAP (food stamp) program. This means that you can be sanctioned for not complying with the work rules, unless you are exempt. The section above explains who is exempt from the general work rules and what happens if you are sanctioned.

In addition to those general work rules, the NJ SNAP program has a time limit that applies to some adults who get SNAP unless those adults are working or participating in a work program for at least 20 hours per week. These special ABAWD rules were “waived” for several years, but now they apply everywhere except Atlantic, Cape May, and Cumberland counties. The ABAWD rules are different from the general work rules. Some people can be exempt from the ABAWD time limit rule even if they are not exempt from the general work requirement.

If you are losing SNAP benefits because of the ABAWD rules, don’t give up!

You can still be eligible for more SNAP benefits if you work or participate in work activities—or if you are exempt from the ABAWD rules.

Who is an ABAWD?

ABAWD stands for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents. It is an adult between 18 and 49 years old who is not disabled, not pregnant, and not living in a household with minor children. If you are an ABAWD, you can only get three months of SNAP in a 36-month period unless you meet an exception or follow work rules.

What are the work rules?

You must be: 

  • Working or doing volunteer work for 20 hours a week/80 hours a month OR 
  • Doing SNAP employment and training or be in a workfare program.

Do the work requirements apply to me?

The work rule and three-month time limit DO NOT apply if you:

  • Are under age 18 or age 50 and older
  • Can’t work 20 hours or more a week because of a physical or mental problem 
  • Are caring for a child in your SNAP household (you do not have to be the child’s parent)
  • Are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSDI) 
  • Get unemployment benefits
  • Are pregnant 
  • Take care of an ill or disabled person in your household 
  • Are enrolled at least half-time in school 
  • Are in a drug or alcohol rehab program
  • Applied for SSI and your application is pending
  • Deferred from the WFNJ/GA work program.

If you lose SNAP because of the work rules, or because they say that you have used up your three months, but you do not agree, appeal right away. If you appeal within 15 days of the date of the notice, you can get SNAP during the appeal. 

How do I get a fair hearing?

  • Call the State Fair Hearings Hotline at 1-800-792-9773.
  • Put it in writing. (If you go to the agency office to ask for a hearing, you should still put your request in writing, keep a copy for yourself, and get a receipt. That way, you will have proof that you asked for the hearing.)
  • Call the welfare office. Speak with your SNAP caseworker or with the Fair Hearing Liaison and tell them that you want a hearing. Get the name of the person you speak to, and write it down. Ask them to send you a letter confirming that you asked for the hearing.

How much time do I have to ask for a fair hearing?

If you want to stop the welfare office from changing your SNAP benefits while you wait for a hearing, you must ask for a hearing within 15 days of the day you get notice of a change in your case. Make sure that you say that you want your benefits to continue when you ask for the hearing. (If you lose your appeal, you will have to pay back the extra benefits. Usually, the SNAP office will withhold this from future benefits each month until it is paid back.)

For SNAP, you have 90 days from the date of the Division of Social Services’ decision to ask for a fair hearing. (But you still must ask for the hearing within 15 days of the agency decision if you want your benefits to continue while you wait for a hearing.) ​​​​​​


SNAP Time Limits and Work Rules for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents​ (PDF)

9/27/2017