What is CalWORKS?

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CalWORKs is the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program. It provides cash aid, employment services, and other benefits to needy families.

Is CalWORKS known by any other names?

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Yes. CalWORKs may also be referred to as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is the name for the federal program that funds CalWORKs. Some people call it "Welfare."

What does CalWORKS provide and how long will it last?

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CalWORKs provides cash aid, employment services, and other benefits. CalWORKs generally gives cash aid to adults for 48 months. Children continue to receive cash aid after the 48-month limit.

You may qualify to get CalWORKs benefits for more than 48 months if you:

  • Have a disability and do not get SSI
  • Care for an ill or disabled person
  • Are pregnant and unable to work
  • Are 60 years old or older
  • Are a child up to 19 years old, even if your parent(s) stop getting CalWORKs because they are over the 48-month limit
  • Are a victim of domestic violence, or
  • Live in Indian Country where at least 50% of the adults are unemployed.

There may be other exceptions to the time limit not included in this list.

Who is eligible for CalWORKS?

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To be eligible for CalWORKs, a family must have a child who is:
  1. Under age 18 (or under age 19 if the child is currently attending high school or vocational school), and
  2. Deprived because the parent(s) is unemployed, disabled, continuously absent, in jail, or dead.

In addition, a CalWORKs applicant must meet the residency, income, and resource requirements of the program.

CalWORKs benefits may be available to the following people in a family:

  • Children
  • Parents
  • Pregnant women in their last trimester
  • Minor mothers
  • Certain non-parent relatives who are caring for the children

What will I have to do to participate in CalWORKS?

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To receive cash aid in CalWORKs, you will be required to participate in the Welfare-to-Work Program, unless you're exempt. You will also have to report changes to your income and living situation. You will have to report changes annually, if only your children are receiving assistance, or every 6 months if both a parent(s) and the children are aided. You must report certain changes immediately. CalWORKs will tell you what those situations are when you are accepted into the program.

Are there any medical eligibility requirements to enroll in CalWORKS?

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Sometimes. If you are applying for CalWORKs as a parent with a disability, you will have to meet disability eligibility requirements. CalWORKs considers you disabled if your disability:
  • Is expected to last at least 30 days, and
  • Significantly impairs your ability to be regularly employed or participate in Welfare-to-Work activities.

Does what I have in the bank and/or what I own affect my eligibility for CalWORKS?

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Yes. To be eligible for CalWORKs, your family cannot have more than $2,250 in resources ($3,500 for a family with a member 60 years old or older).

Note: One house that the family lives in and one car with a value of $9,500 are not counted as resources, so you may own them and still get CalWORKs. Also, if you have a disability that began before you turned 26, you can open an ABLE account where can save up to $15,000 each year and not have it counted by CalWORKs. Learn more about ABLE accounts.

How do I apply for CalWORKs?

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Contact your local county human services agency to get an application.

How soon can I be eligible for benefits from CalWORKs?

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When you apply, the county has to schedule an intake appointment within 7 days. A CalWORKs application must be accepted or rejected within 45 days. However, many applications can be approved in less time depending on the county you live in and your family’s circumstances.

What should I do if I need financial help right away?

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  • If you have less than $100, need to pay for basic needs, and it appears you qualify for CalWORKs, then the county must provide you with $200 within two working days from the time you request the money. They then must process your CalWORKs application within 15 days. Rent, food, utilities, clothing, and medical care are examples of basic needs.
  • If you are being threatened with eviction, the county should process your application within 1 day and give you the full benefit for that month or $200, whichever is less.
  • You can get CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps) within 3 days if your gross income is less than $150 or you have less than $100 in resources.
  • If you are applying for CalWORKs and need money for a special circumstance, CalWORKs may give you a one-time diversion payment so that you don't need to go on the program. If the one-time payment does not work, it will either count as one of your 48 months or be considered an overpayment.

Can I qualify for CalWORKs while I am eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

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Your family can, but you will not be considered as a family member when CalWORKs determines the grant amount. This means that your family will be eligible for a smaller grant. Your family's countable income, however, will not include your SSI.

The reasoning behind this rule is that you use your SSI benefit to pay for your own basic living expenses. CalWORKs won't give you money to cover these same expenses, but realizes that you can't share that money with the rest of your family.

Can I qualify for CalWORKS while I am eligible for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program?

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Yes. You may qualify for CalWORKs while you are eligible for SSDI. However, a portion of your SSDI benefit will be considered as income when determining your eligibility and the amount of cash aid you will receive.

How do I stay in CalWORKs?

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To stay in CalWORKs, you need to keep meeting the requirements for:

Are there rules for immigrants to qualify for CalWORKs?

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Yes. To qualify for CalWORKs you must be a California resident. In addition, you must be either a:

Does working affect CalWORKs?

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Yes. If your family's countable income goes up, your cash benefit may go down. If your family’s countable exceeds the Maximum Aid Payment for your family size, you may stop getting a cash benefit altogether. You may continue to be eligible for other benefits even if you stop getting a cash benefit.

Can I receive Welfare-to-Work services if I’m disabled?

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Yes. Although many disabled CalWORKs recipients are exempt from participating in the Welfare-to-Work Program, you can voluntarily participate and receive paid child care.