Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents

Work requirements in Washington state

Welcome to the DSHS work requirements site for clients designated as able-bodied adults without dependents. This page outlines general information regarding Washington’s work requirements for people meeting the demographic criteria of Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents, or ABAWDs, including what the participation requirements are in order to maintain eligibility for Basic Food assistance. Important information is outlined as follows:

  • Federal work requirements.
  • Who is included in ABAWD demographics?
  • What are the ABAWD requirements?
  • What areas in Washington state must meet these requirements?
  • Can people be exempt from this requirement?
  • What do I do if my Basic Food ends because of the ABAWD rules?
  • Current ABAWD-focused events.

Federal work requirements

Federal regulations require certain people who receive Basic Food assistance to meet work requirements to continue receiving benefits. These requirements affect people identified as Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents. In Washington, these people who live in non-exempt counties must work or participate in work-related activities if they are not working or do not have approved work exemptions.

Who is is included in ABAWD demographics?

As outlined in WAC 388-444-0030, ABAWDs are a subpopulation of Work Registrants who are:

  1. Aged 18 through 52.
  2. Able to work and have no physical or mental disabilities, injuries or health issues that prevent them from working.
  3. Not receiving any food benefits for minor children in their household.
  4. Not reporting any exemptions and are not identified as an exempt work registrant (more information under exemptions below).

What are the ABAWD requirements?

If you are person designated as ABAWD and you live in a non-exempt area (see map below), you will only receive three months of Basic Food benefits unless you do one or more of the following:

  • Work at least 20 hours per week averaged monthly (80 hours per month).
  • Volunteer in the community through Workfare monthly (the number of volunteer hours is determined based on the benefit amount divided by state or local city minimum wage).
  • Participate in state-approved employment or training programs. Please see a list of approved programs. This page will be updated as new programs are added. 

What areas in Washington are required to participate?

Effective Feb. 1, 2024, people designated as non-exempt ABAWDs who reside in King County are subject to the time limit rules. 

Washington state map for Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents requirements

Can people be exempt from this requirement?

Some people who receive Basic Food benefits are exempt from ABAWD work requirements. The exemption rules can be found in WAC 388-444-0035 and 388-444-0010. In general, you are exempt from these requirements if you are:

  • Living in an exempt area.
  • Under age 18.
  • Aged 53 or older.
  • A veteran who served in the U.S. Armed Forces or Reserves (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard), regardless of discharge status.
  • Homeless.
  • Previously in foster care on your 18th birthday and are 24 years or younger.
  • Determined to be physically or mentally unable to work:
    • Unable to work at least 20 hours a week on average.
    • Or receiving L&I, veterans' or private disability insurance.
  • Caring for a person who is incapacitated.
  • Receiving food benefits in the same assistance unit as a minor child.
  • Applying for or receiving unemployment benefits.
  • A student* in school at least half time.
  • Participating in a substance use disorder treatment program.

*A student enrolled in higher education must meet the requirements under WAC 388-482-0005 to be eligible for Basic Food.

More information on ABAWD eligibility can be found in the Eligibility A-Z Manual under Basic Food Work Requirements - ABAWD.

For other questions regarding work requirements, BFET or Workfare: