SNAP Time Limit for Unemployed Workers

Beginning February 1st, 2018, Tennessee will impose SNAP time limits affecting some participants in 79 counties across the state, including Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. These participants may only receive SNAP benefits, formerly food stamps, for a total of three full months for the 36-month period from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2018, UNLESS they are exempt by meeting work requirements, having barriers to employment, or living in a waived county (see back page for more information) AND are otherwise eligible. They MAY qualify for an additional three- months under certain circumstances.



The state is making big changes to Food Stamps across Tennessee.  Many people could lose Food Stamps due to SNAP time limits.  If you got a letter like this from DHS, fill out the form below and we will call you.

SNAP time limits letter


Who is subject to SNAP time limits?

Any SNAP participant between 18 and 49 years old who:

  • Does not meet certain work/training requirements for average of 80 hrs./month,
  • Does not meet an exemption, and
  • Is not living in a waived county. (See list of waived counties below)

When do SNAP time limits not count?

  • Time limits do not count for any month that an exemption applies.
  • The first month of SNAP help doesn’t count against the time limit if the participant applied after the 1st of the month.
  • After reaching the three-month limit, if the participant meets a work/training exemption for at least one full month then they will get a 2nd consecutive 3- months even if they are not exempt.

How community organizations can help

  • Use Tennessee Justice Center’s SNAP Time Limit Checklist to see if participants are exempt.
  • Ensure exempt individuals contact their SNAP office to provide information about their exempt status and help them gather the needed documentation.
  • Contact TJC (877-608-1009) if you meet someone who was incorrectly cut off from SNAP due to time limits.
  • Ensure individuals subject to time limits contact their SNAP office to find out how they can meet these requirements and enroll in qualifying activities.
  • Connect people willing to share their SNAP story with TJC (877-608-1009).

Work/Training Exemptions

  • Earning an average of $935/month or $11,350/year (e.g. School employees, seasonal workers, self-employed)
  • Working an average of 80hours/month. Including:
    • Paid work
    • Work for trade (i.e. work for rent or other goods/services)
    • Unpaid work/volunteering
  • Participating in a qualifying training program an average of 80 • hours/month:
    • Includes WIOA, Trade Adjustment • Act, SNAP E&T, Adult Basic Education (HiSET, GED)
    • Usually offered at Dept. of Labor American Job Centers (AJCs)
  • Combining work and training programs for an average of 80 hours/month
  • Meeting Families First requirements

Barriers to Employment Exemptions

  • Under age 18 or 50 years or older
  • Physically or mentally unable to work
  • Caring for an “incapacitated person” (disabled, frail, or ill person)
  • Living with a child under 18 (does not have to be related to participant or on SNAP)
  • Pregnant
  • Participating in drug or alcohol treatment
  • Receiving/applied for unemployment benefits and meeting requirements Enrolled at least half-time in any recognized school, training program, or institution of higher education AND meeting student eligibility criteria
  • Temporarily unable to work due to illness, household emergency, lack of transportation
  • Leaving a job with good cause (only for month in which he/she left employment)
  • Any other good cause for not working

Waived Counties

Individuals living in the following counties in Tennessee have been waived from time limits through January 31, 2019:

  1. Bledsoe
  2. Hancock
  3. Lake
  4. Lauderdale
  5. McNairy
  6. Scott

Share your story of how Food Stamps helps your family. Stories like yours help leaders understand why Food Stamps is so important.  Your story could protect Food Stamps for millions of families across America just like yours.  Fill out the form below and we will call you.

To find your local SNAP/DHS office, visit:

To find your local American Job Center, visit: