One of the benefits CalWORKs provides is help getting a job, so in the future you can support your family. CalWORKs helps you do this, but you must take steps to find work. This part of CalWORKs is called Welfare-to-Work.

Welfare-to-Work can include different types of activities. How many hours of these activities you have to do each week to keep getting CalWORKs 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 Welfare-to-Work requirements.

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

CalWORKs knows that some people can’t work, and gives them exemptions from Welfare-to-Work requirements. 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 injured household member
  • Taking care of a baby under a year old
  • Pregnant and medically unable to do Welfare-to-Work activities

If you are exempt, you can still volunteer to get the help offered through the Welfare-to-Work program.

Note: If you don't qualify for an exemption, you might get approved for a "good cause" that makes you unable to do Welfare-to-Work, like homelessness, not being able to get child care, your car broke down (no transportation), or a child is sick and has to stay home from school.

The One-Time Young Child Exemption

A parent of a child 0 – 23 months old can have an exemption 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 60-month lifetime limit.

The Standard Rules

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

Welfare-to-Work Activities

You can be on CalWORKs for up to 60 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 have 57 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 47 months remaining.

The Hourly Requirement

During those 60 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 do 35 hours per week (adding their hours together), unless one parent is exempt. If a parent is exempt, the other parent needs to do 30 hours per week.

What Activities Qualify

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

  • 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, substance abuse, or domestic violence services (possibly with assigned time limits)
  • Providing child care for someone in the CalWORKs community service program.
  • Adult basic education
  • Job skills training aimed at getting a job
  • Education aimed at getting a job
  • Satisfactory attendance in a secondary school or GED (high school equivalency) program.
  • Mental health, substance abuse, or domestic violence services (beyond assigned time limits)
  • Vocational education and training beyond the 12-month lifetime total
  • Other activities needed to find work

How the CalWORKs Program Helps You

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

  1. You go to a group orientation that explains the cash benefit and Welfare-to-Work rules.
  2. You meet with a county worker who looks at your work history, skills, and discusses any additional services you feel you might need, such as:
    1. Child care. You can get help paying for child care if you are working or doing approved Welfare-to-Work activities.
    2. Transportation costs related to your employment.
    3. Other services, like job training and counseling.
  3. Most people then participate in a 2-to-4-week job club or job search program. You might get extra help if you are in difficult circumstances, like experiencing homelessness or if you are not safe because of domestic abuse, mental health issues, or substance abuse.
  4. If you haven’t found a job at the end of those 4 weeks, you meet with an employment counselor, who helps you make a Welfare-to-Work plan listing your activities. This plan should help you find a job that lets you support your family after your 60 months of CalWORKs benefits end.
  5. If you don’t follow your plan, your CalWORKs benefit may go down.

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