South Carolina ABAWDs Returns – What to Know (2023)

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  • Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWDs) is resuming for the first time in South Carolina since the beginning of the Pandemic
  • Letters will be sent in September telling an individual that the agency believes this person is an ABAWD and notifying that if she is then her benefits will end in three months.  
  • ABAWDs applies to thousands of non-disabled adults between the ages of 18 and 54 who are not caring for minor children
  • A person may not be an ABAWD if she has physical or mental conditions that are documented by a doctor.  This can be so even if the person does not receive disability benefits. 
  • The age range for ABAWDs expanded from 49 to 54 year olds due to federal changes
  • You may be exempt. Exceptions are listed below

The Return of ABAWDs

On September 1, 2023, almost 30,000 people in South Carolina will be get a letter telling them that they will only be able to get benefits for three months in a three year period unless they comply with an outdated work requirement called Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWDs). This harsh time limit to food assistance will most certainly increase hunger and hardship throughout the state. 

ABAWDs’ requirements limits the amount of assistance some individuals can get in a three-year period. It includes thousands of non-disabled adults between the ages of 18 and 54 who are not caring for minor children. Prior to the pandemic, the time limit applied to those between 18 and 49. Due to federal changes, the age range has now expanded to 53.

Individuals that fall into ABAWDs will now only receive a very time limited Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) assistance. Individuals will be limited to receiving SNAP for just three months out in a three year period if they are not working or are in a work training program for at least 20 hours a week. Work search, work training and education programs cannot be counted as part of the 20 hours per week.    

Starting September 1st South Carolina will send out letters to inform those they believe to be ABAWDs that it will begin implementing this time limit statewide.

Receiving a letter identifying you as ABAWD does not mean that you are.  If you or someone you know gets this letter you may be able to show you are exempt.  The letter should include this information.

If you fit into one of the following categories, you may be exempt from this requirement. You should call DSS immediately and let them know if:

  • You are a veteran (you are exempt if you served, regardless of type of discharge)
  • You are under 24 or younger and left foster care at 18
  • You are homeless in the following situations:
    • You are in a shelter or halfway house
    • A temporary accommodation for not more than 90 days in the residence of another individual; or
    • A place not designed for, or ordinarily used, as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings (a hallway, a bus station, a lobby, or similar
  • You have a note from a medical professional, therapist, counselor or social worker documenting your inability to work.

Program Flaws

Unfortunately, if not exempt you will lose SNAP regardless of how hard you are looking for work or want to attend a job training program.  Searching for work will not count toward the 20 hours needed to satisfy the new requirements.  Likewise, many of those who will be affected are already working but may not be able to find the hours needed to meet the requirement, or community service to make up the difference.