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CA Food Banks Remark on AB 1965

September 20, 2022

Yesterday, Governor Newsom issued a veto message for AB 1965 (Wicks) that would have created “CARE” (California Anti-Hunger Response) benefits for CalFresh (known as SNAP federally) recipients cut off from nutrition benefits because of the ABAWD time-limit rule. 

Although we are disappointed, we are certainly not giving up. We are proud of the broad coalition of 48 organizations spanning California that rallied with the tremendous leadership of Assemblymember Wicks to get this important legislation to the Governor’s desk. CAFB and the Western Center on Law & Poverty are as committed as ever to ensure we achieve this important policy next year. 

More than 4.9 million Californians currently receive CalFresh nutrition assistance – it is our state’s most effective anti-hunger program, supporting the health of our low-income communities while also creating jobs and benefitting our state’s food economy. In 1996, federal welfare reform implemented strict time limits for people deemed to have Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (“ABAWD”) status receiving CalFresh benefits (recipients ages 18 to 49 without dependent children, who are considered fit to work). 

Federal law dictates that someone with ABAWD status is time-limited to just three months of SNAP within a 36-month period unless they: (1) live in a state or county with an ABAWD waiver; (2) work an average of 20 hours each week or participate in a qualifying employment and training program or workfare activity; or (3) are granted an individual exemption. Currently, California has a statewide ABAWD waiver in place that means ABAWD rules are not being implemented, but this waiver is set to expire on June 30, 2023, which would lead to thousands of Californians losing eligibility for CalFresh benefits. 

Simply put, hunger never makes any person better able to prepare for work, secure a job, or succeed at their place of employment, and AB 1965 would have ensured that people with ABAWD status are supported during hard times. 

AB 1965 gave us an opportunity to educate California’s Assemblymembers and Senators about this critical issue, and we are proud to have seen it pass the Assembly and Senate with bipartisan support. It is clear that our state leaders recognize this issue as an important step to ensuring equitable food access for all Californians, and we will continue to build on this great momentum. 

We are also going to continue to fight for the repeal of these harmful rules Federally, once and for all. We are grateful for Rep. Barbara Lee’s H.R. 1753 – the Improve Access to Nutrition Act – with 76 co-sponsors (22 from California). 

To join this work and stay updated, please reach out to policy@cafoodbanks.org

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