CalWORKs FAQs

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  • What is the CalWORKs Program?

    California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) is a cash aid program for low income families to meet their basic needs, such as housing, food, and utilities.

    It provides education, employment, and training programs to help families get jobs and move towards self-sufficiency. Child care, transportation, work expenses and counseling are available for families in work activities. There are also special services for pregnant and parenting teens through the Cal-Learn program. In addition, Medi-Cal is automatically issued to everyone receiving CalWORKs.

  • What is the difference between CalWORKs and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program?

    CalWORKs is the state of California's version of the TANF program, which is the name for the federal program that funds CalWORKs. 

  • How do I apply for CalWORKs?

    You may apply for CalWORKs by completing an online application or by going to your local Family Resource Center during business hours. Please refer to this link on How to Apply

  • What to bring when applying for CalWORKs?

    Please follow this link: CalWORKs/RCA - Required Documents to obtain details regarding required documents.

  • How long should it take to process my CalWORKs application?

    The County must process CalWORKs applications within 45 days. However, many applications can be processed in less time depending on the family’s circumstances.

  • Are CalWORKs applicants subject to automatic home visits from fraud investigators?

    Before CalWORKs eligibility has been established, applicants are subject to a home visit by an Early Fraud Investigator. The home visits are an extension of the initial eligibility determination process.

  • Why do I have to be photographed and fingerprinted?

    CalWORKs applicants and recipients, other than children, are required to provide two fingerprint images and a photo image as a condition of eligibility for CalWORKs. The purpose of this requirement is to eliminate duplicate aid in the State's public assistance programs. As each fingerprint is entered, it is matched against those in the database to determine if the person fingerprinted has an active case elsewhere in the state.

  • Are there time limits for receiving CalWORKs?

    Adults under the CalWORKs program are limited to receiving cash benefits for a lifetime cumulative period of 48 months. There is no time limit for children; they may continue to receive cash aid, under the Safety Net program, until they turn 18 or are no longer eligible.

    Adults may continue receiving CalWORKs benefits for more than 48 months if they, either:

    • Have a disability and receive disability based income – other than Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • Care for an ill or disabled person
    • Are pregnant and unable to work
    • Are 60 years old or older
    • Are a victim of domestic violence
    • 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?

    To be eligible for CalWORKs, there must be a child* in the home who is deprived of parental support and care because one or both of their parents are, either:

    • Deceased
    • Disabled
    • Unemployed
    • Continuously Absent from the home

    *For CalWORKs purposes, a child is a minor under the age of 18 (or under age 19 if the child is currently attending high school and will graduate before their 19th birthday).

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

    • Children (as described above)
    • Parents or certain non-parent relatives who are caring for the children
    • Pregnant women beginning in their second trimester if aged 19 years or older; or in any trimester if under the age of 19

    Some members of the family may not be aided, even if they live in the same home with CalWORKs recipients:

    • Persons who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
    • Persons who do not meet citizenship or alien status requirements
    • Foster children receiving foster care payments
    • Sponsored aliens whose needs are being met by a sponsor or sponsor’s agency
    • Sanctioned persons

    In addition, a CalWORKs applicant must meet other requirements of the program (Please follow this link for details: Eligibility). 

  • What is CalWORKs Diversion?

    The CalWORKs program also offers Diversion Services, an alternative cash assistance program, to help with a one-time payment to help get or keep a job.

  • What is Welfare-to-Work?

    Welfare-to-Work is the employment services program of CalWORKs. Unless exempt, CalWORKs recipients must participate in Welfare-to-Work activities to continue to receive cash aid. The Goal is to help recipients get the best job they can as soon as possible, and to keep that job!

    (Please follow this link for Welfare-to-Work Frequently Asked Questions).

  • What is the Cal-Learn Program?

    Cal-Learn is a statewide program for pregnant and parenting teens in the CalWORKs program. It is designed to encourage pregnant and parenting teens to graduate from high school or its equivalent, become independent, and form healthy families.

    Pregnant and parenting teens receiving CalWORKs are required to participate in Cal-Learn if:

    • They are under the age of 19
    • They live in the same household as their child
    • They have not graduated from high school or its equivalent
  • Does what I have in the bank and/or what I own affect my eligibility for CalWORKs?

    To be eligible for CalWORKs, the family cannot have more than $2,250 in resources (or $3,250 for a family with a member 60 years old or older). Certain resources are not counted therefore the family may own them and still get CalWORKs.

  • How do I stay enrolled in CalWORKs?

    To stay eligible for CalWORKs, recipients need to continue meeting the following requirements:

    • Have an eligible child in the home
    • Be under the income and property limits
    • Participate with Welfare-to-Work (unless exempt)
    • Children must have satisfactory school attendance
    • Children under six years old must be up to date with their immunizations
    • Be within the program time limits
    • Recipients must report income and living situation every six months, if both the parent(s) and the children are aided
    • If only the children are receiving assistance, changes will have to be reported annually
    • There are certain changes affecting benefits that must be reported within 10 calendar days; the County will explain the reporting responsibilities on what must be reported
    • All households must complete an annual renewal process to evaluate all changes and to determine continued eligibility

    There are other requirements not included in this list.

  • Are there rules for immigrants to qualify for CalWORKs?

    To qualify for CalWORKs the recipients must be either a U.S. citizen or qualified alien.

  • How much cash assistance can be received?

    The amount of cash assistance a family receives varies by the number of family members and income. The Maximum Aid Payment (MAP) is the maximum monthly CalWORKs benefit a family could receive if they have no income. As the family’s income goes up, the amount of CalWORKs benefits will go down.

  • Does working affect CalWORKs?

    Yes. If the family's countable income goes up, the cash benefit may go down. If the family’s countable income exceeds the Maximum Aid Payment (MAP) for the family size, the family may stop getting a cash benefit altogether.