Able Bodied Adults without Dependents - ABAWD

Upcoming Events

Throughout the year, DSHS along with many community partners, hold hiring and resource fairs aimed at helping ABAWDs find employment or back to work activities.

Hiring and Resource Event 2018

Who is considered an ABAWD?

Clients who are: 

  • Required to register for work under WAC 388-444-0005; and,

  • Between eighteen to forty-nine years old; and,

  • Not receiving benefits with a minor (in the same assistance unit, regardless of relationship).

2018 Waived Areas

Effective January 1st 2017, if you reside in PIERCE COUNTY, SNOHOMISH COUNTY, or the MUCKLESHOOT RESERVATION you are now exempt from ABAWD work requirements. All counties in Washington state are waived from ABAWD Requirements except for King County.

ABAWD Area Map 2017


Were your food benefits terminated in 2016 due to work registration rules?

If you were considered an ABAWD and received 3 consecutive months of food assistance benefits before they were closed for not participating in specific work activities, you may now reapply for food assistance the following ways:

  1. Online using Washington Connection at

  2. Phone by calling the Dept. of Social and Health Services customer service call center at 1-877-501-2233

  3. In-person by visiting your local community services office. To locate an office, you may visit and click ‘find a community services office’

What are the ABAWD requirements?

If you are an ABAWD living in a non-waived area (see 2017 map above), you will only get 3 months of Basic Food benefits unless you do one or a combination of the following:

  • Work at least 20 hours per week averaged monthly (80 hours per month); or,

  • Volunteer in the community through Workfare each month. The number of volunteer hours is determined based on the benefit amount; or,

  • Participate in a state approved employment or training program including but not limited to

  • Are otherwise exempt from participation. Reasons for exemption are listed below.

* DSHS can refer you to these programs when you apply for benefits or during your eligibility review.  


Who doesn't have to meet ABAWD Work Requirements?

Some people on Basic Food 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 the ABAWD requirements if you are:

  • Living in a county or area still covered by the waiver; 

  • Under eighteen or over forty-nine years old;

  • Determined to be physically or mentally unable to work;

    • Unable to work at least twenty hours  a week on average

    • Receiving L&I, Veterans, or private disability insurance

    • Chronically Homeless (with a barrier to work)

  • 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 chemical dependency treatment and rehabilitation program; or

  • Eligible for one of the annual federal-approved exemption slots under the fifteen percent exemption rule.

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


Volunteering to meet the ABAWD Requirements (Workfare)

ABAWD Clients

If you are interested in volunteering in order to fulfill your ABAWD work requirement, please contact the Dept. of Social and Health Services customer service call center at 1-877-501-2233 and ask to learn more about Workfare.

You will be called back by an ABAWD team member who will assist you in finding a Workfare agency in your area. If you already have one in mind, the team member will either assist you with a formal referral or contact the agency to ensure they can host you as a volunteer.

When you are referred to a Workfare site, you will be provided a DSHS letter letting you know:

  • Where you will be volunteering; and
  • Contact information for the person supervising your volunteer work; and
  • The number of hours you are required to volunteer to meet your monthly requirement; and
  • The date you are expected to volunteer by

 You must turn in a signed DSHS 01-205 Workfare Activity Report monthly as verification that you have met your hourly requirement.

Workfare Agencies

Workfare agencies must enter into an agreement with DSHS in order to host ABAWD clients.

What is a Workfare host agency?

A non-profit, public, or government agency which

  • Allows a volunteer to work under supervision and direction to gain valuable work experience and meet Basic Food work requirements.

  • Does not replace full time or part time employee positions, or fill vacancies with unpaid workfare labor. (A workfare participant MAY work into a paid employment placement.)

  • Does not place volunteers on an assignment that is a result of a labor dispute.

  • Provides a safe working environment free of health and safety hazards. As well as free of harassment including but not limited to: sexual, racial, religious and gender providing the same rules and regulations kept for paid employees.

What are the Workfare host agency’s responsibilities?

  • Provide supervised duties in which participants will learn vocational skills and gain work experience.

  • Provide necessary documentation and reporting of attendance to DSHS.

  • Report documentation monthly.

  • Report any issues or problems timely to the ABAWD Team.

  • Furnish training, equipment and materials required for duties of the workfare position.

What the benefits of being a Workfare site?

  • Being part of someone changing their lives for the better.

  • Free services provided by the participant.

  • Serving your community and nation in building our workforce for the future.


Current Workfare Agencies

Please note that clients must contact the ABAWD Team first in order to be referred to a Workfare agency before volunteering. Clients can do so by calling the Customer Service Contact Center at 1-877-501-2233 and requesting a call back from the ABAWD Team.



What do I do if my Basic Food ends because of the ABAWD rules?

The first time your benefits can end because of ABAWD rule will be at the end of the third month you did not participate in.  Even if your Basic Food benefits end, you can still requalify if you become exempt, or participate in an approved activity.  Otherwise, you won’t qualify for Basic Food again until January 1, 2018, when the 36 month period resets.


What is DSHS doing to help ABAWDs?

DSHS is committed to helping clients required to participate engage in an activity that will not only help them to meet ABAWD requirements but also encourage them down their pathway to self-sufficiency:

  • Mailing postcards to ABAWDs to offer BFET services;

  • Improving our software so we code all ABAWD exemptions when appropriate;

  • Training our staff on this new process and ABAWD referrals;

  • Making contacts and lists of volunteer sites where ABAWDs could work; and

  • Updating letters and communication so that ABAWDs understand what they have to do.


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


For questions about the ABAWD changes, BFET, RISE, or Workfare