Welfare-to Work

One of the main benefits you get from CalWORKs is help becoming employed, so that you can support your family over the long-term. CalWORKs will offer you support, and you also have the responsibility to take steps to make this goal a reality. This part of CalWORKs is called Welfare-to-Work.

Welfare-to-Work can include different types of activities and what you are required to do depends on the age of your children and whether you have a disability. We’ll describe how this works below, but first let’s look at the people who don’t have to meet these requirements.

People who don’t have to do Welfare-to-Work

CalWORKs realizes that some people can’t work. People who can’t work may get exemptions from the Welfare-to-Work requirement. If you are exempt, you won’t have to do the Welfare-to-Work activities described on this page. 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 incapacitated household member
  • Taking care of a baby under a year old
  • Pregnant and medically unable to participate in Welfare-to-Work activities
The One-Time Young Child Exemption

A family can have a full exemption for a parent of a child 0 – 23 months of age one time during the parent’s lifetime. During this exemption, which is a year longer than is usually allowed for a baby, that parent won’t have to do Welfare-to-Work activities. Even though the parent keeps getting CalWORKs, those months won’t count as part of the 48-month lifetime limit.

The Standard Rules

If you are not exempt from the Welfare-to-Work rules, you will have to do various things to keep getting CalWORKs benefits. If you don’t, you will stop getting the monthly cash benefit.

Welfare-to-Work Activities

You can be on CalWORKs for up to 48 months during your lifetime. Those months do not have to be consecutive (in a row); if you are on CalWORKs for the first time and only receive benefits for 3 months, you will have 45 months remaining during which you can get benefits over the rest of your life. If you need CalWORKs again 5 years later and only get CalWORKs for 10 months, you would still have 35 months remaining.

The Hourly Requirement

During those 48 months, you must spend a minimum number of hours each week doing Welfare-to-Work activities, unless you are exempt. The exact number of hours depends on your situation.

  • If you are single:
    • 30 hours per week if there are no children under age 6
    • 20 hours per week if there is at least one child under 6
  • A couple must combine to do 35 hours per week, unless one parent is exempted. If a parent is exempted, the other parent would need to do 30 hours per week.

What Activities Qualify

There are 2 types of Welfare-to-Work activities that can be done to meet these requirements. In some months you have to do mostly “core” activities in order to meet your Welfare-to-Work requirements, while in other months you can meet your requirements by doing “non-core” activities.

Core activities - These job-related activities may include things like:

  • Subsidized or unsubsidized employment
  • Work experience
  • On-the-job training (OJT)
  • Work-study
  • Self-employment
  • Community service
  • Grant-based OJT
  • Vocational education and training (12-month lifetime total)
  • Job search and job readiness assistance
  • Mental health and substance abuse services
  • Providing child care to a community service program participant

Non-core activities - These may not be as directly linked to getting a job. They can include:

  • Adult basic education
  • Job skills training directly related to employment
  • Education directly related to employment
  • Satisfactory attendance in a secondary school
  • Mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence services
  • Vocational education and training beyond the 12-month lifetime total
  • Other activities necessary to assist in obtaining employment

Each county has its own list of acceptable core and non-core activities, so the rules in your county may be a bit different from the acceptable activities listed here.

Which Type of Activities You Need to Perform

During your 48 months on CalWORKs, you can always meet your Welfare-to-Work requirement if you do mostly core activities. This means:

  • If you are single, you’ll always meet your requirement if at least 20 of your 30 hours of Welfare-to-Work activities are core activities.
  • If there are two adults in your household, you’ll always meet your requirement if combined at least 30 of your 35 hours of Welfare-to-Work activities are core activities.

For up to 24 of your 48 months on CalWORKs, you can meet your requirement without doing mostly core activities. These 24 months are called the Welfare-to-Work 24-Month Time Clock. During these 24 months, you still need to perform Welfare-to-Work activities for the number of hours indicated above, but the activities can be non-core activities, which may include activities not on the list that you and your CalWORKs caseworker think would help you be more prepared for work in the future.


You are single and have two children. You do not have a high school degree and when you talk with your CalWORKs caseworker, you both agree that you should get your GED before you look for a full-time job. You go to the local adult education program and spend 30 hours each week at school for 10 months. At the end of the school year, you get your GED and graduate. Because you were studying for 30 hours each week, you were able to stay on CalWORKs even though you weren’t doing core activities, thanks to the 24-Month Time Clock.

You have used up 10 of the 24 months of the 24-Month Time Clock, leaving 14 more months during which you could fulfill your Welfare-to-Work requirements without performing core activities. You have also used up 10 of your 48 months of CalWORKs, meaning you could get CalWORKs for 38 more months during your lifetime.

How the CalWORKs Program Helps You

CalWORKs helps you fulfill the Welfare-to-Work requirements and find employment in a number of ways:

  1. You will go to a group orientation that explains the cash benefit and Welfare-to-Work rules.
  2. You will meet with a county worker who will look at your work history, skills, and discuss any additional services you feel you might need, such as:
    1. Child care. One parent families must work 20 hours a week to receive child care. Two parent families must work a combined 55 hours a week, unless one parent is exempt from Welfare-to-Work or is caring for a disabled child.
    2. Transportation costs related to your employment.
    3. Other services, like job training and counseling.
  3. Most people will then participate in a 4-week job search program.
  4. If you haven’t found a job at the end of those 4 weeks, you will meet with an employment counselor, who will help you make a Welfare-to-Work plan that lists your core and non-core activities. This plan should help you find a job that will support your family after your 48 months of CalWORKs benefits end.
  5. If you don’t follow your plan, your CalWORKs benefit may go down.