Congress created ABAWD waivers as a way for counties and states with high unemployment to ensure that federal food
stamp time limits don’t cause undue harm to Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs). By requesting an
ABAWD waiver, counties can help stimulate the local economy with additional food stamp benefits and help to ensure
that low-income adults without children have the food they need to be productive members of society. ABAWD waivers
also save time, hassle and errors for food stamp caseworkers, who will no longer have to determine whether to apply
ABAWD exemptions to adults reaching their time limit.

Under a waiver, all ABAWDs who live in the county are exempt from time limits on their food stamp benefits. They are
still subject to the same food stamp work requirements as other adults, but they no longer lose their food stamps if they
can’t find a job after three months. The waivers last for up to one year, depending on when the request is submitted, and
they can be renewed if the county is still eligible. In order to get an ABAWD waiver, counties need to submit a formal
request to California Department of Social Services, which will request the waivers from USDA. USDA will grant
waivers to any county that qualifies based on the criteria outlined below.

To make a formal ABAWD waiver request from the state, the county needs to send a letter to:

       Gail Sullivan, Employment and Eligibility Branch
       California Department of Social Services
       744 P Street, MS 16-33
       Sacramento, CA 95814

Counties only need to include three items in this letter:

1.     The scope of the waiver. Most counties are eligible for and should therefore request a full-county waiver.
       Counties that are not eligible for a full-county waiver may have cities or areas that do qualify. If certain
       areas of the county have a 12-month unemployment average of over 10 percent, these areas will qualify for a
       partial-county waiver.

2.     Duration of the waiver. Once granted, ABAWD waivers will last for up to a year. After the year has
       expired, they can be renewed if the county is still eligible.

3.      A brief description of how the county qualifies for the waiver. In the letter of request, counties
        should note the conditions that form the basis for the waiver request. Waivers will be granted by USDA
        under any one of three conditions:

Ø       The county has a 12-month unemployment average over 10 percent; OR
Ø       The county has been designated by the U.S. Department of Labor as a Labor Surplus Area; OR,
Ø       The county has a 24-month unemployment average that is more than 20 percent higher than the national
        unemployment average during the same period of time.

        Counties should include basic documentation of the unemployment average or Labor Surplus Area

4.      Evidence that your county’s Board of Supervisors knows that your county is requesting the
        waiver. This can either be a policy briefing sent to the board (see enclosed example) or a formal Board of
        Supervisors’ resolution. This evidence of Board approval is required by the state, not by USDA.

For assistance in completing a waiver request or more information about the waiver, please contact
Gail Sullivan at CDSS, 916-654-1464, or George Manalo-LeClair at California Food Policy Advocates, 415-777-
4422, ext. 103.

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