The Return of the Three-Month Time Limit for Food Stamps

Updated March, 5 2024

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What is the Three-Month Time Limit for Food Stamps? 

Starting July 1, 2023, if you are an adult under 53 (under 55 as of October 1, 2024) who does not live with children, you can only receive food stamps for three months unless you are working or meet an exception. These are known as the ABAWD rules (Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents). These requirements may only apply to some people in your household. 

The ABAWD time limit was suspended through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act beginning on April 1, 2020. The three-month time limit returned to North Carolina on July 1st, 2023.  

Exceptions – You do NOT have a time limit if you are: 

  • Age 53 or older (55 or older as of October 1, 2024)
  • Under age 18
  • Living with children (even if not yours)
  • Pregnant
  • Foster children under age 25 (had to be in foster care at the time of their 18th birthday)
  • In school or taking classes at least part-time (special rules apply; exempted through work registration rules)
  • Veterans (includes all branches, reserve components and National Guard, regardless of discharge characterization)
  • Receiving a disability-based benefit (Social Security, SSI, VA pension, Workers Comp, private insurance)
  • Caring for a disabled person or child under 6 (does not need to live in same household; exempted through work registration rules)
  • Unfit for work at this time according to a doctor’s office
  • Unable to work 20 hours per week
  • Applying for or getting Unemployment Benefits (exempted through work registration rules)
  • If you are making over $217.50 per week, regardless of number of hours worked (exempted through work registration rules)
  • In a drug or alcohol treatment program or in need of that treatment
  • Homeless
  • Some other exceptions apply

How can I keep my food stamps if the time limit applies to me? 

  1. Work at least 20 hours/week, including at a job, your own business, or in exchange for goods or services 
  1. Do job training through DSS 20 hours/week 
  1. Volunteer 20 hours/week 
  1. Any combination of the above 

Call your local Department of Social Services (DSS) if you have questions about the time limit, you need help showing the limit does not apply to you, or to find volunteer work or training:

Mecklenburg County

Phone number: 704-336-3000

Wallace H. Kuralt Centre
301 Billingsley Road, Charlotte, NC 28211

Ella B. Scarborough Community Resource Center
430 Stitt Road, Charlotte, NC 28213

Community Resource Center
3205 Freedom Drive, Charlotte, NC 28208

Union County

Phone number: 704-296-4300
2330 Concord Ave, Monroe, NC 28110

Cabarrus County

Phone number: 704-920-1400
1303 S Cannon Blvd, Kannapolis, NC 28083

Contact one of the organizations below if your food stamps are stopped or denied, or if you would like to speak with a lawyer about your rights. FREE legal assistance is available:

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

Mecklenburg County
English: 704-376-1600
Spanish: 800-247-1931

Legal Aid of North Carolina

All other NC counties

Pisgah Legal Services

Western NC

Frequently Asked Questions 

What should you do if you believe one of the exceptions apply to you? 

Contact your local DSS. If your caseworker finds that one of these reasons apply to you, you will not need to follow these Time Limit Rules. Proof of an exception or meeting the work requirements may be required. If so, you have the right to request that DSS assist you in gathering proof.  

What if I have a good reason for missing work? 

If you have a “good cause” for working under 20 hours/week, DSS should not terminate your food stamps. Good causes for missing hours of work include: illness, transportation issues, or bad weather that shut down the workplace. DSS will ask for proof of the good cause. 

What if my Food Stamp benefits are reduced or end due to the time limit but should not have been?  

DSS is required to give you advanced written notice of a proposed reduction or termination of benefits of at least 10 business days before they take such action. The notice must state the reason for the action, the effective date of the action, and the name and contact information of the person to contact to request more information or to request a fair hearing to challenge the action. At recertification, your caseworker must review your eligibility for exceptions retroactively. 

You have the right to request a hearing if you do not agree with DSS’s decision. You can request a hearing by contacting your local DSS in person, by telephone, or in writing.  

What else should I know? 

You can get your benefits back if you start meeting the work requirements or an exception. You may also qualify for a second 3-month period of food stamps if you met the work rules in the past. Make sure you are providing DSS with the most current information regarding your employment or exceptions.  

What other food resources are available?  

  1. WIC: If you have a child under 5 and/or are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may be eligible for WIC. Learn more about WIC and complete a WIC referral online at  
  1. 211: Visit or dial 211 to be connected to community food resources. 
  1. Food Pantries: You can find local food pantries by visiting
  1. NC Care 360: Request help or find resources by clicking the “For Individuals” tab on  
  1. FindHelp: Find food and other resources at