For more information, please see the eligibility page.

What is CalWORKs?

California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) is California's welfare program, which provides temporary financial assistance and employment focused services to low-income families with minor children. CalWORKs funding comes from the federal Temporary Aid to Needy Families [TANF] program.If you are applying for CalWORKs benefits, it is likely that you will be required to work and/or participate in training. As an adult receiving aid for yourself, you can only receive CalWORKs for five years (60 months) in your lifetime
NOTE BEFORE YOU APPLY: If you want to go to community college or four-year college and receive CalWORKs, you will likely have more options if you register at the school before you apply for welfare. If you apply for (or have previously received) CalWORKs and then try to get education and training, your choices will be limited by the welfare department. For more information on how to attend school while on welfare, contact LIFETIME, a statewide organization dedicated to empowering low-income parents, at or 510-352-5160.
NOTE FOR IMMIGRANTS: Your immigration status may affect your eligibility for this CalWORKS. Also, your receipt of certain benefits may affect your immigration application process.

How To Apply:

You must go to a county welfare office to apply. You can find your county welfare office in the government section of the phone book, or you can look it up on your county website. A list of county websites is here
If you are disabled and unable to come in to get an application, call your county office for information on getting a county social worker to come to your home.
At the county welfare office, tell the person at the front desk that you want to apply for CalWORKs and that you would like an application. If you need help filling out the form ask the receptionist for someone to help you. You may have to attend an orientation that day, or come back to attend an orientation at a later date.
You have the right to turn in a written application on the day you go into the welfare office. Although it may take awhile to complete the entire application process, if you are approved, you will get benefits starting from the date you turned in the application. You may need to return to the office to turn in supporting documents. When applying for CalWORKs, also remember to apply for Medi-Cal and Food Stamps (you can usually use the same application to apply for all three).
If you are eligible, you will receive a CalWORKs cash grant within 45 days of applying, as long as you provide all necessary documentation, fill out the necessary forms and are interviewed by an eligibility worker.
Emergency Situations: If you are in an emergency situation, tell the person at the front desk, the worker you meet with and/or the person leading the orientation. You may be able to get Immediate Need Benefits. An emergency situation can include the following: you are dealing with violence from your boyfriend, partner or husband, you need prescriptions, you have an eviction or utility cut-off notice, you have no food or have another kind of emergency situation. See below for more information on Immediate Need Benefits.
Child Support. If you are a single parent taking care of your children, in order to receive CalWORKs you will have to agree to cooperate with the county’s efforts to collect child support from the other parent of your child. You may be exempt from this requirement if you are in fear of emotional or physical harm to you and your child. After you begin receiving CalWORKs, child support payments will be collected by the county and you will receive $50 per month in place of the entire child support check.
Fingerprinting. In order to receive CalWORKs, the welfare office will ask all of the adults applying to be fingerprinted. This is a requirement to receive CalWORKs under state law. You can always request another fingerprinting appointment if the one they give you is inconvenient, but you will not receive benefits until your fingerprints are taken.
Language Assistance. If English is not your first language, in most cases you have the right to receive mailings and notices in your own language, and have access to caseworkers or free interpreters who speak your language.

What to bring:

On the day you turn in your CalWORKs application, you only need to bring proof of identification, which can be anything that has a picture and your name on it.
Before your case is approved, you will also need to provide the following verifications and documents:

  • Proof of age of children (birth certificate, hospital letter, baptismal certificate, etc);
  • Proof of residence (rental agreement, mortgage payment, letter with your address on it, or utility bill);
  • Social Security Number for every family member applying (you do not need to bring your Social Security card);
  • Evidence of your relationship to the child/children. If you are applying for your own children, you will need to show that you are their parent. If you are a non-parent caretaker (grandmother, uncle, etc.) you will need to prove that you are related to the child within 5 degrees of kinship. This proof can include birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc.
  • Proof of income (check stubs, letter from employer, bank statements, self-employed statement);
  • Proof of pregnancy with expected due date (if applying for pregnancy aid with no other eligible children). Adult applicants are only eligible for CalWORKs from their third trimester on. Pregnant teenagers who have not graduated from high school are eligible for the entire pregnancy;
  • Proof of application for any unconditionally available income, such as Unemployment Insurance, Social Security, State Disability Insurance, etc.
  • Proof of the value of any property or assets you own, including vehicle registration, bank account statements, deeds to land, etc.
  • Proof of eligible immigration status if those applying are not citizens.
If you do not have the verifications or documents that you need to apply, the welfare department can help you get them. Also, you or someone you know may sign a statement explaining why you do not have them. You may be able to receive benefits while you are getting the documents together. When you turn in any document, you should ALWAYS request a receipt showing the date and a description of the document you provided.

How the Benefit Works:

Welfare-to-Work and reporting requirements. In order to continue to receive CalWORKs benefits, most people will be required to work, look for work, and/or participate in training/education, unless you are exempt from these requirements due to a disability, domestic violence or some other reason. You will also be required to report your income on a quarterly basis on a QR-7 form, as well as any changes to your property or household size. If you do not show up for appointments, you may be sanctioned, or your benefits may be decreased or discontinued.
Children born while you are receiving CalWORKs. Under a state law called the Maximum Family Grant (MFG) rule, if you give birth to a child after you have received CalWORKs for 10 consecutive months prior to the child’s birth, your grant will not increase to accommodate the child, unless the situation fits an exception to the rule. These exceptions include not receiving notice of this rule from the welfare department and conceiving the child due to rape, incest, or failed sterilization, IUD or Norplant, etc.
Immediate Need Benefits. You may be eligible for immediate cash assistance if you meet the following criteria:

  • If you have less than $100 on hand, need to pay for basic needs, and it appears you qualify for CalWORKS, then the county must provide you with $200 within two working days from the time you request the money. They then must process your CalWORKS application within 15 days. Rent, food, utilities, clothing and medical care are examples of "basic needs".
  • If you are being threatened with eviction, the county should process your application within 3 days and give you the full benefit for that month.
  • You can receive food stamps within three days if you have gross income of less than $150 or less than $100 in assets.
  • If you are applying to CalWORKS and need money for a special circumstance, WalWORKS may give you a diversion payment so that you don't need to go on the program. If the diversion payment does not work, it will either count as one of your 60 months or be considered an overpayment.
The maximum immediate need benefit is $200 or the maximum amount of cash aid you are eligible to receive in the application month (whichever is less). These benefits must be given to you within one working day of your application.

If You Are Having Problems Getting this Benefit:

If you need legal help, use the county Contact Sheets to locate your county's local legal aid. If you are being cut off from welfare benefits, you can always request a fair hearing. The back of your Notice of Action will tell you how to request a hearing.