Glossary: CalWORKs

Classes offered to CalWORKs recipients that provide basic reading, writing, and math skills.

Protective shoes, clothing, tools, fees, or other services necessary for work.

A trained expert who can help you understand and apply for benefit programs. Their goal is to help you develop a plan for your future and organize your financial life to run as smoothly as possible.

  • For questions about work and your Social Security benefits, use Social Security's "Find Help" tool to locate a WIPA project near you. You can also call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 / 1-866-833-2967 (TTY/TDD). The Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) also has Work Incentives Planners (WIPs).
  • If you need assistance with your Medicare, the Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program can help. HICAP provides free information and counseling to people with Medicare. You can call HICAP at 1-800-434-0222 or visit the HICAP website.
  • If you need assistance with Medi-Cal and have a disability, you can contact Disability Rights California at 1-800-776-5746 or visit their website. You may also be able to get help with Medi-Cal from a local legal aid organization. The Health Consumer Alliance website has a lot of useful information about Medi-Cal, including a web page that can direct you to a local legal organization for assistance.
  • If you have questions or need assistance with a program or benefit not listed here, contact an Independent Living Center. Independent Living Centers provide peer support and information on a wide range of topics for people with disabilities.
California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids. The state welfare-to-work program that provides income support and access to health coverage on a temporary basis. CalWORKs was formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).

This table shows CalWORKs maximum possible monthly cash benefit amounts. The maximum benefit for a family depends on how many people are in the family, whether the family is exempt because all caretakers are disabled, and whether it lives in Region 1 or Region 2.

Region I includes the more urban counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Orange, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, and Ventura) where cost of living is higher, so the maximum benefit is correspondingly higher. Region II includes the more rural counties (all of the ones not listed above).

CalWORKs Maximum Grant Amounts

Region 1

Region 2

Family Size























































To be eligible for CalWORKs, You must be a U.S. citizen, Qualified Alien or someone Permanently Residing Under Color of Law (PRUCOL).

Temporary or transitional work that is performed in the public or private nonprofit sector that provides the Welfare-to-Work participant with job skills that can lead to employment.

A parent that lives with the child.

The amount of another person’s income – spouse, sponsor, sponsor’s spouse, parent – that is considered to belong to the individual regardless of whether the person receives this money.

A condition that is expected to last at least 30 days and that significantly impairs the individual’s ability to be regularly employed or participate in Welfare-to-Work activities.

To qualify for an exemption from Welfare-to-Work activities due to a disability, a CalWORKs recipient must provide verification from a physician that states the disability, its expected duration, and the extent to which it impairs employment and/or Welfare-to-Work activities. The individual must also actively seek medical treatment to qualify for an exemption.

Assaultive or coercive behavior that includes: physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, economic control, isolation, stalking, and threats.

Individuals who have endured domestic abuse.

Salaries, wages, tips, professional fees, and other amounts you receive as pay for physical or mental work you perform. This can include things you get in exchange for work instead of wages, such as food, shelter, or other items. Funds received from any other source are not included. (Contrast: unearned income.)

When you get CalWORKS monthly cash benefits, you do not have to do the Welfare-to-Work activities if you are exempt. You can get an exemption if you are:

  • Disabled for at least 30 days
  • Under 16
  • Under 19 and in school full-time
  • Over 60
  • Caring for a relative’s child who is a ward of the state or is in danger of being placed in foster care, and who requires care that prevents you from working
  • At home because you are caring for a sick or injured household member
  • Taking care of a baby under a year old
  • Pregnant and medically unable to do Welfare-to-Work activities

Note: If you are exempt, you can still choose to get Welfare-to-Work help, if you want it.

Monthly and annual income amounts used to determine financial eligibility for state and federal benefit programs.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issues the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG) in the Federal Register. The current FPG for one person is $15,060 per year; for two people, it's $20,440. Add $5,380 for each additional person.

Some agencies refer to these guidelines as the "Federal Poverty Level (FPL)" or "Federal Poverty Line (FPL)."

Note: Different state and federal programs adopt the new Federal Poverty Guidelines on different dates each year.

Complete medical services offered to beneficiaries such as:

  • Inpatient hospital services (tests, surgeries, procedures)
  • Outpatient hospital services
  • Physician services
  • Medical and surgical dental services
  • Nursing services
  • Home health care
  • Family planning and supplies
  • Rural health clinic and ambulatory services
  • Laboratory and x-ray services
  • Pediatric and family nurse practitioner services
  • Nurse-midwife services
  • Early and periodic screening
  • Diagnosis and treatment (EPSDT) services
  • Prenatal and delivery services
  • Ambulatory services for individuals in an institution
  • Home health services
  • Clinic services
  • Nursing facility services (under 21 years old)
  • Intermediate care facility/developmentally disabled services
  • Optometrist services and eyeglasses
  • Prescribed medication
  • TB-related services for TB infected persons
  • Prosthetic devices
  • Dental services
  • Preventative and rehabilitative services
  • Case management
  • Private duty nursing
  • Home respiratory care services
  • Personal care services
  • Home and community based waivers
  • Medical equipment and appliances
  • Diagnostic screening

A county program that provides relief to those who are unable to support themselves by their own means, or by friends or relatives, other public funds, or other assistance programs.

Your earned income (before taxes and other deductions are made) plus your unearned income.

Amount of cash aid a CalWORKs applicant is eligible for based on family size. Families who do not have any earned or unearned income are considered exempt and will receive a higher cash payment.

A tool used by California’s Department of Social Services to determine CalWORKs eligibility.

The MBSAC is a limit that is compared to your countable income. If your family’s countable income is lower than the MBSAC for a family in your situation, your family will be eligible for a CalWORKs cash benefit. The MBSAC limit depends on how many people are in your family and whether you live in Region 1 or Region 2.

Region I includes the more urban counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Orange, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, and Ventura) where cost of living is higher, so the MBSAC is correspondingly higher. Region II includes the more rural counties (all of the ones not listed above).

Note: THE MBSAC limit is not your benefit amount. Is is simply a tool to determine whether your family is eligible for CalWORKs.

Minimum Basic Standard of Adequate Care (MBSAC) Levels

Family Size

Region 1

Region 2































More than 10

Add $34 for each extra person

Add $34 for each extra person

An employment activity under the Welfare-to-Work Program that provides skills to CalWORKs participants. An employer in the public or private sector can receive compensation for On-the-Job Training of a CalWORKs recipient.

A financial penalty imposed on an individual who is not following the requirements of the Welfare-to-Work Program.

Regular attendance and satisfactory progress in the Welfare-to-Work and Cal-Learn programs. In the Cal-Learn program, satisfactory progress is considered a grade point average of 2.0.

Full-time vocational training or education that also fulfills the work activity requirements under the Welfare-to-Work Program. The training or program must be expected to be completed within 24 months and take place at an approved school.

A one-time cash payment to homeless CalWORKs families for temporary or permanent housing.

A person who, by signing an affidavit of support, agrees to support an immigrant as a condition of the immigrant’s admission for permanent residence in the U.S.

Employment in which the CalWORKs program partially or fully reimburses a Welfare-to-Work participant’s employer for wages and/or training.

A federal welfare program, formerly known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), that provides income support and access to Medi-Cal for low-income adults with children. In California, TANF is known as CalWORKs.

Funds received from sources for which no paid work activity is performed. Disability benefits such as SSDI, SSI, short-term disability insurance, and long-term disability insurance; VA benefits; Workers' Compensation; income from a trust or investment; spousal support; dividends, profits, or funds received from any source other than work are all usually considered unearned income.

CalWORKs generally defines unemployed as having worked less than 100 hours in the previous 4 weeks. In a two parent household, one of the parents can work more than 100 hours per month so long as the family income after deductions (countable income) is below the income limit for the program.

A home that is unfit for living.

Employment that is not reimbursed to an employer by the CalWORKs Program.

Activities that meet the Welfare-to-Work requirement. Most CalWORKs recipients must participate in 20 hours of core activities. Your county may include all or some of the following as acceptable core activities:

  • Subsidized or unsubsidized employment
  • Work experience
  • On-the-job training
  • Work-study
  • Self-employment
  • Community service
  • Vocational education and training
  • Job search and job readiness assistance

The rest of the Welfare-to-Work requirement can be fulfilled with non-core activities, which may include:

  • Adult basic education
  • Job skills training directly related to employment
  • Education directly related to employment
  • Secondary school
  • Mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence services

Welfare-to-Work training activities or community service that provide job skills that will lead to unsubsidized employment.