The Cash Benefit

If you qualify for CalWORKs, you’ll get a monthly cash benefit for up to 48 months, as long as you are eligible and continue to meet the Welfare-to-Work requirements explained on the next page (children continue to receive cash aid after the 48-month limit).

Note: The 48-month limit is a lifetime limit. That means that if you got benefits for 12 months, went off CalWORKs for a while and got back on later, you would only have 36 months of eligibility remaining.

Some situations let you get more than 48 months of benefits

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

  • Meet certain exemptions, or
  • Qualify for an extension to the time limit.

For example, you may be able to get more than 48 months of benefits if you are disabled and not getting SSI or if you are caring for an ill or disabled person in your home.

To learn more about these exemptions or others, talk to a Benefits Planner or with your county human services agency.

How Much You Get Each Month

When figuring out how much you should get in CalWORKs, your county human services agency will take the following steps:

  1. Decide who they will consider part of your family
  2. Decide if your family is “exempt”
  3. Figure out what the maximum possible benefit is for your family based on your family’s size, living situation, and where it lives
  4. Figure out how much income your family has
  5. Subtract your family’s income (calculated in step 4) from the maximum benefit possible for a family like yours (calculated in step 3). The result will be the benefit your family will get.

Here we’ll explain these steps in greater detail.

Who is a part of your family?

Not everybody who lives in your household is considered part of your family for the purposes of calculating how much money you’ll get each month from CalWORKs. These are the main groups of people who may not be considered part of the family, even if they live in your home:

  • People who get SSI
  • People who do not meet citizenship or alien status requirements
  • Foster children receiving foster care payments
  • Children subject to the Maximum Family Grant provisions
  • Sponsored aliens who needs are being met by a sponsor or sponsor’s agency
  • Sanctioned persons

Larger families qualify for larger benefits, so if CalWORKs doesn’t count some people in your family, your benefit could be lower.

Is your family exempt?

If all of the adults in the family are disabled and receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), State Disability Insurance (SDI), or Worker’s Compensation, you will get a higher cash benefit. The higher benefit is called the “exempt” amount.

What is the maximum possible benefit a family like yours could get?

The maximum possible CalWORKs benefit depends on your family size, whether your family is exempt, and where you live. When they look at where you live, they’ll give your family a slightly higher benefit if you live in an urban area (a city) than if you live in a rural area (the country). That’s because the cost of living, including rent, food, and other things is higher in cities than in the country.

See the maximum benefit amounts for different situations.

How do they calculate my income when determining my benefit?

Your countable income for determining your benefit amount is different than your countable income for calculating eligibility. That means that to figure out your benefit, we have to ignore the calculation we did for figuring out eligibility and start over.

Here are the steps your county human services agency will take when it calculates your income:

  1. Add up all of the money you get from disability benefits, including SDI, private disability insurance, workers' compensation, and SSDI. Remember, any family members who get SSI won’t be counted as part of your family by CalWORKs, so you don’t have to include their SSI benefit or any other income they may have when you add up your family’s disability benefits.
  2. Subtract $225 from the combined total of your disability benefits to find your countable disability income. This $225 is called the disability-based income (DBI) disregard.
  3. Add your countable disability income to any other unearned income you have, such as unemployment benefits or other sources of money that are not from work. The combined total is called your countable unearned income.
  4. If your family has earned income:
    1. Add up the earned income your family members have from different sources.
    2. If your family qualified for the disability-based income disregard (DBI) and you get less than $225 in disability benefits, which means that you didn’t use the entire $225 DBI, you can subtract whatever is left over from that $225 from your earned income.
      • Example: You get $180 each month in SDI. That’s less than $225, so you can subtract $45 from your family’s earned income.
    3. If your family did not qualify for the DBI, subtract $225 from your earned income. This $225 is called the earned income disregard.
    4. Divide your family’s remaining earned income by 2. This is your countable earned income.
  5. Add your countable unearned income from step 3 to your countable earned income from step 4 to find your total countable income.

On the previous page, we figured out that Dennis and Rebecca qualify for CalWORKs. Dennis gets SSI and has no other income, while Rebecca makes $1,000 a month babysitting other kids as she also takes care of their own three children. The county reviews their application to figure out how much this Oakland family will get in TANF aid.

The first thing the county does is totally ignore Dennis and the $931.72 he gets in SSI and does not subtract $225 from the family’s income. That’s because CalWORKs doesn’t consider him part of the family when calculating how much the family gets in benefits. Since the family has no other unearned income, the family’s total countable unearned income is $0.

Then, the county looks at the family’s earned income – the $1,000 that Rebecca makes each month. First, the county subtracts the $225 earned income disregard from this, leaving $775. Then, the county divides that by 2, which leaves them with $387.50 in countable earned income. Since there was no unearned income, the family’s total countable income is $387.50.

Note: Countable income for figuring out how much a family gets is different than countable income for figuring out if a family is eligible. Dennis and Rebecca have $387.50 in countable income for determining the benefit, but had $910 in countable income for figuring out eligibility.

What will I get?

To calculate your monthly cash benefit, subtract your total countable income from the maximum possible benefit a family like yours could get. Your benefit will be directly deposited into a bank account or you get it via an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which is a debit card.

Example (continued)

The county worker looks up what the maximum possible grant is for Dennis and Rebecca’s family. Remember, the family:

  • Has 4 family members (Rebecca and the 3 children; Dennis is not counted because he is on SSI)
  • Is not exempt because Rebecca does not have a disability
  • Lives in Oakland, which is part of Region 1 because it is an urban area (Alameda County)

The maximum benefit chart shows that the highest possible benefit for a family like this would be $1,060 a month.

The county subtracts the family’s $387.50 in countable income from the $1,060 and figures out that the family will get $672.50 per month from CalWORKs.

Other Benefits

Besides the cash assistance, CalWORKs also provides other benefits:

  • Support for Welfare-to-Work activities (described on the next page)
  • Emergency cash benefits if you are about to lose your home, are homeless, or are in another emergency
  • Family planning and Child Health & Disability Prevention (CHDP)

After your CalWORKs benefits end, you will have 12 months of transitional Medi-Cal coverage and 24 months of child care.