Governor announces changes to welfare, SNAP programs

Governor announces changes to welfare, SNAP programs


NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes today announced plans to reinstate the federal work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that was waived in 2008 during the economic recession. With the state’s record low unemployment rates and significant job growth, the waiver is no longer needed across most of the state – but will remain in place in 16 counties designated as economically distressed.

Haslam also announced he will propose legislation to the 2018 General Assembly that will incentivize work, reduce fraud and strengthen program integrity in the state’s welfare programs.

The state will reestablish work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) receiving SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) in 70 counties beginning February 1, 2018.

Work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents were waived in 2008 as the Great Recession struck the nation and Tennessee with high unemployment. As the economy has recovered, most other states have either fully or partially restored the work requirement.

DHS, which administers the program, conducted its annual review of all 95 counties, evaluating criteria such as unemployment rates, labor surplus status, poverty rates and per capita income. As a result of the review, the work requirement waiver will remain in 16 counties designated as distressed and have a labor surplus. The work requirement is currently in place in nine counties, seven of which surround Davidson County where the economy showed faster improvement.

Of the approximately 1 million Tennesseans who receive SNAP benefits, the re-instated work requirement will likely impact 58,000 able-bodied individuals without dependents who are not currently meeting the requirement.

“This waiver was necessary at a time when people were hurting from the recession. But nearly a decade later, Tennessee is one of the top locations in the Southeast for high quality jobs, and it’s now difficult to justify waiving the work requirement for adults without dependents who are able to work,” Haslam said. “We have experienced record low unemployment rates and substantial job growth in Tennessee, and if you can’t find a job, we are here to help you through a network of resources and opportunities across the state.”

To satisfy the ABAWD work requirement, an individual must fulfill one of the following: work at least 20 hours per week; or participate in qualifying education and training activities at least 20 hours per week; or participate in an approved workfare/volunteer program at least 20 hours per week. DHS will partner with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Economic and Community Development to assist individuals in meeting the work requirement in the affected counties.

“We are excited to collaborate with other state agencies, local communities and employers to build a bridge connecting our customers directly with employment opportunities,” Barnes said. “Education and employment are critical for individuals to build a sturdy foundation for stronger communities.”

Haslam also plans to propose legislation during the 2018 legislative session aimed at reducing fraud, waste and abuse associated with welfare programs while encouraging self-sufficiency by incentivizing work.

Key components include:


  • Seeking approval to join a multi-state cooperative to identify dual participation in programs;
  • Strengthening investigations of multiple EBT card replacements;
  • Increasing the ability to investigate fraud with additional tools;
  • Reducing the fiscal cliff for families meeting the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF or Families First) work requirements by providing a work incentive transitional benefit;
  • Encouraging family stabilization by linking the TANF maximum benefit to the current standard of need.


For more information regarding the SNAP or TANF programs, the SNAP ABAWD work requirements and resources for satisfying them, or to view the full list of counties impacted, visit the Department of Human Services’ website.

For more information on employment and educational opportunities, visit the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s website.

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