SNAP Works: SNAP Work Requirements and Time Limits

While most SNAP recipients are in families with children, or include seniors or individuals with disabilities, SNAP is one of the only federal safety net programs available to low-income individuals regardless of family or disability status. SNAP also serves many individuals in working families. The number of SNAP households with employed family members has been rising for more than a decade from about 2 million households in 2000 to about 6.4 million in 2011. However, many low-income workers—even those who work full time—do not earn enough to make ends meet.

SNAP has several provisions designed to encourage individuals who are not working to enter the workforce, including a time limit for so-called “able-bodied adults without dependents.” Moreover, despite limited funding for employment and training, SNAP recipients can be sanctioned for failing to participate in assigned work activities. This comes as states have increasingly chosen to focus these services on voluntary participants.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) initiative provides federal funding to states, in the form of grants, to help SNAP participants obtain jobs that will reduce their need for SNAP assistance. However, as this brief explains, major investments in SNAP are needed to ensure recipients don’t go hungry and, when they’re capable of working, can access employment and training opportunities.