2020 CalFresh ABAWD Time Limit Waiver Request Approved – All But Six Counties Remain Under Waiver


The California Department of Social Services CalFresh Branch request to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to continue to waive the three-month CalFresh time limit for unemployed adults without minor children in most California counties has been approved. As a reminder, the statewide waiver expired August 31, 2018, and beginning September 1 2018, three counties (San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara) lost the waiver due to their lower unemployment rate, and reimplemented the time-limit rules.

The state's new waiver excludes all but six counties from the ABAWD three-month time limit for September 1, 2019 through August 31, 2020Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Mateo. This means that in September 2019 three new California counties will begin implementing the ABAWD time limits (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin), along with the three that began implementing in September 2018 (San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo).

Read USDA's waiver approval letter. PDF

The state is to be commended for securing this waiver extension, which will continue to waive the time limit for 94 percent of CalFresh participants who would otherwise be subject to the harsh and punitive three-month time limit.

Earlier this 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.


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 went back into effect September 1, 2018 in three California counties, and will likely continue to affect new areas as unemployment continues to decline across the state, and if the Trump administration implements its recently proposed rule severely restricting state flexibility to waive the time limit.

Learn more on the return of the time limit on CFPA's ABAWD Time Limit page and from our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Questions? Contact Jared Call at 323.401.4972