Benefits for Young People

Other Programs

There are many other benefits programs that you may qualify for. If you don't get Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you may qualify for CalFresh and CalWORKs if your income and assets are low enough.

Depending on your circumstances, two Social Security programs may give you benefits based on contributions your parents made during their careers: Child’s Benefits and Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB).

A third set of programs, including ABLE Accounts, Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), help you save up money or other assets without losing your other benefits.

CalFresh and CalWORKs

CalFresh, sometimes called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), helps people with low incomes and low assets pay for food. CalFresh used to be called Food Stamps, but it changed names and works a little differently now. Instead of using stamps, you get a plastic card called an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that looks and works like a debit card. California puts money on the EBT card each month and you use the card to pay for food.

CalWORKs gives money to families who don't have enough to pay for basic needs like food, clothing, and rent. CalWORKs defines a family as 1 or 2 parents living with their child or children under 18. The age limit is 19 for children who are in school full-time. A family could include biological kids, stepchildren, adopted children, and children of relatives. For more details, read DB101's article on CalWORKs.

In order to get CalFresh or CalWORKs, you must have low income and limited assets. There are two ways for you to apply for these programs:

You can apply for CalFresh and CalWORKs at the same time and you can also apply for Medi-Cal. If you need help completing an application, talk to a benefits planner.

Child’s Benefits (only if you are under 19)

The most common way for adults to get Social Security benefits like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or retirement benefits is to work and pay into Social Security’s trust fund.

For young people, however, a more common way to get Social Security benefits is to qualify for Child’s Benefits. You do not need to have a disability to qualify for Child’s Benefits. To get them, you must:

  • Be under the age of 18 (or 19 if you’re attending high school or another secondary education school)
  • Not be married, and
  • Have a parent who gets Social Security retirement benefits or SSDI. If your parent is deceased, you may also qualify.

Note: You'll get Child's Benefits in any month your parent gets a Social Security disability or retirement benefit. You will also get benefits if your parent is deceased and would have qualified for benefits based on his or her work record. That means that if your parent is in SSDI's Trial Work Period, you'll keep getting Child's Benefits, but during the Extended Period of Eligibility, you'll only get a Child's Benefit in any month your parent gets an SSDI benefit. Make sure to notify Social Security if your family is in this situation.

You can apply for Child’s Benefits at your local Social Security office, or by calling 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY). If you have questions about this, talk to a benefits planner.

Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB) Benefits (only if you are 18 or older)

If you have a disability, you may be eligible to get money each month through the Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB) program.

CDB is based on your parent’s work record. You can only get CDB if you are 18 or older. In order to qualify for CDB, you must also:

  • Have become disabled before you turned 22
  • Not be married, unless your spouse also gets SSDI or CDB
  • Meet the adult definition of disability, and
  • Have a parent who gets Social Security retirement benefits or SSDI. If your parent is deceased, you may also qualify.

You don’t automatically get CDB when you turn 18. You can apply for it at your local Social Security office, or by telephone at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY).

If you get CDB, you can also get health coverage through Medicare after a 2-year waiting period.

Click here to learn more about CDB or talk to a benefits planner.

Asset-Building Programs

Asset-building programs are a different type of benefits designed to help you save money you have earned. Instead of sending you a check or paying for your health care expenses, asset-building programs help you save money so that you can afford to pay for your own expenses, such as education, buying a car, or even retirement.

ABLE Accounts

If your disability began before you turned 26, you can open an ABLE account where over time you can save up to $100,000 in resources and not have them counted by SSI. ABLE accounts mean that if you get a job, you can start saving some money without losing your benefits. Additionally, the money in an ABLE account gets tax advantages similar to the way retirement accounts work.

However, ABLE accounts have restrictions:

  • They can only be opened through specific programs or institutions.
  • You can only open one ABLE account.
  • You and the other people making contributions on your behalf have a limit on how much you can deposit each year. Combined, you cannot deposit more than $18,000 in 2024.
  • You can only use money in an ABLE account for specific things, such as:
    • Education
    • Housing
    • Transportation
    • Help getting and keeping work
    • Health care
    • Assistive technology, and
    • Other approved expenses.
  • A person can only have one ABLE account.

Learn more about ABLE accounts.

Individual Development Accounts (IDA)

An IDA helps people save money for a specific goal, such as purchasing a home, starting a small business, or paying for education. The great thing about an IDA is that for every dollar you save, the bank or other financial institution where you have your account will match your money. For example, if you save $50 per month, the financial institution might contribute $100 per month. The amount they’ll contribute depends on the institution, but sometimes they will put more money into your account than you do!

Note: There aren't as many IDA programs as there used to be. Some are still active, but it can take a bit of effort to find one that is accepting applications.

To open an IDA:

  • You must have low income, and
  • The money you contribute must be money that you earned from work, not from a benefits check, your parents, or any other source.
Important information for people on Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

If you are getting SSI, it is very important that you enroll in an IDA that is federally funded through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Assets for Independence Act (AFIA). (You do not need to be getting TANF benefits in order to do a federally-funded IDA program.)

SSI does not count money deposited into federally-funded IDAs, so the money you save will not cause your SSI benefit to be reduced or eliminated.

If you enroll in a nonfederally funded IDA (for example, one funded by a nonprofit or private company), the money that is deposited and matched in your IDA could affect your benefits.

IDAs are a great money-saving tool, but you need to be sure and enroll in the right type of IDA so that you don’t jeopardize your benefits. To learn more, read DB101’s article on Individual Development Accounts.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) gives money to low to moderate income workers and families. Even people who don’t make enough money to owe income taxes may be able to get a check from the IRS if they qualify for this tax credit.

To qualify, the only requirement is that you have had income from employment, self-employment, or employer-paid disability benefits. If your income is too high, you will no longer qualify for the credit.

Be sure to file your taxes

To get the EITC, you need to file your taxes, even if you owe nothing! Make sure to complete the “Schedule EIC” as well. This is free money, and lots of people don’t get it because they don’t know about it!

The amount of your EITC depends on your family size and income. The maximum credit for 2024 (filing by April 2025) ranges from $2 to $7,830. Make sure to file your taxes and apply!

For more details, go to DB101’s Earned Income Tax Credit article.

Learn more