Work Requirements Tracker

Some public assistance programs require recipients to work, get job training, or perform other work-related activities to qualify for benefits. What’s required and who’s subject to work requirements varies widely across programs and states, and the rules are changing.

As the Trump administration seeks to strengthen and expand these mandates, we’ll be laying out the current state of work requirements and tracking policy changes as they occur.

Work Requirements in


Medicaid provides health insurance and health care to eligible low-income people. Historically, Medicaid has not mandated that people work to remain eligible for benefits. But in 2018, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance that allows states to implement waivers to require that certain Medicaid beneficiaries engage in work or other related activities to maintain coverage—a major policy shift for the 50-year-old program.

Some beneficiaries are excluded from work requirements under the guidance, including children, the elderly, pregnant women, those who qualify for Medicaid based on disability, and the medically frail. States can also exempt other groups of Medicaid beneficiaries.

As of [MONTH, YEAR] Medicaid waivers with work requirements have been approved for [NUMBER] states and another [NUMBER] have submitted applications.

Current state of Medicaid work requirements

[Exemption for state here]

Status of Medicaid work-requirement waivers across states as of [MONTH, YEAR]

Work requirements approved
Work requirements awaiting approval
No work requirement proposal submitted
Notes: Work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky have been blocked by a March 2019 court order. Work requirements in New Hampshire have been blocked by a July 2019 court order.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, provides noncash benefits to help low-income households buy food. All adults ages 16 to 59 who are not otherwise exempt must comply with a general work requirement to receive SNAP benefits: they must register to work, accept a job if offered, and not quit a job without good cause. People exempt from SNAP work requirements include children, pregnant women, seniors, and people with certain health limitations.

Able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) ages 18 to 49 have a more intensive work requirement: they can receive SNAP for only 3 months within a 36-month period, unless they are participating in work activities for at least 20 hours a week. States can ask the federal government to waive time limits and work requirements for people subject to ABAWD rules who live in areas with high unemployment or insufficient jobs. During the Great Recession, virtually all states waived or partially waived the ABAWD time limits on SNAP. Over the past few years, however, states have been reinstating them.

In 2019, the US Department of Agriculture adopted a regulatory change that tightens criteria states must meet to waive work requirements in areas with limited employment opportunities. States are currently resubmitting waiver applications to comply with the new rule, which goes into effect April 1.

Current state of SNAP work requirements

[Exemption for state here]

States with time-limit waivers for able-bodied adults without dependents as of [MM/DD/YYYY]

Statewide waiver
Partial waivers
No waiver

Housing Assistance

By and large, Housing Choice Voucher participants and residents living in public housing developments are not subject to federal work requirements. But some of the nation’s roughly 3,000 public housing authorities have implemented work requirements as part of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Moving to Work demonstration.

Moving to Work housing authorities have permission to test housing assistance reforms, such as requiring residents or voucher holders to comply with work requirements. These work requirement policies vary by who is required to participate, how work is defined, and how the requirements are structured and enforced.

In addition, several housing authorities that are part of the Moving to Work Demonstration are experimenting with work requirements through other mechanisms, such as the Family Self-Sufficiency program. Though such programs are voluntary, residents who opt into them must meet a work requirement.

As of [MONTH, YEAR], [NUMBER] Moving to Work housing authorities had work requirements for some of their public housing residents, and [NUMBER] had work requirements in their Housing Choice Voucher programs.

Current state of housing assistance work requirements

[Exemption for state here]

Public housing authorities in the Moving to Work demonstration that have implemented work requirements as of [MM/DD/YYYY]

Map of public housing authorities with work requirements

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

TANF provides cash assistance and other services to low-income families with children. Federal work requirements have been a part of TANF since the program was created in 1996. A state can decide to exempt some families from work requirements, but the state must still meet work participation rate targets.

[NUMBER] states exempt recipients caring for a child, though age cut-offs vary. [NUMBER] states exempt recipients who are caring for someone who is sick or incapacitated. And [NUMBER] exempt recipients who are caring for someone who is sick or incapacitated or who are sick or incapacitated themselves. States may exempt TANF recipients for other reasons as well.

Current state of TANF work requirements

[Exemption for state here]

States with TANF work requirement exemptions for recipients caring for a child under a certain age as of [MM/DD/YYYY]

Under 3 months
Under 6 months
Under 12 months
Under 24 months
No exemptions

States with TANF work requirement exemptions for illness or incapacitation as of [MM/DD/YYYY]

Exemptions for recipients who are either ill or incapacitated or who are caring for someone who is ill or incapacitated
Exemptions for recipients caring for someone who is ill or incapacitated
No exemptions