California CalWORKs

CalWORKs is a California’s welfare program that provides temporary cash assistance to eligible needy families with children.

CalWORKS, a shorthand for “California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids” also offers education, employment, and training programs to help the family move from welfare toward self-sufficiency.

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.

Unless otherwise exempt, work-eligible CalWORKs participants are required to participate in Welfare to Work (WTW) activities as a condition of receiving aid.

If you are a single parent with a child under 6, you must work, or do “job search,” or be enrolled in training for at least 20 hours a week.


What is the income limit for CalWORKs? #

CalWORKs has a gross income limit which is determined by deducting $450 from the earned income of each employed person in the family and then adding all remaining earned and unearned income to determine the gross income for the family.

If this amount after the $450 deduction exceeds the Minimum Basic Standard of Adequate Care (MBSAC) level for the family size, the family is not eligible.

Minimum Basic Standard of Adequate Care (MBSAC) #

MBSAC is a tool used by California's Department of Social Services to determine CalWORKs eligibility. The MBSAC limit depends on how many people are in your family and whether you live in Region 1 or Region 2. 2

For example, a family of three in Region 1 is considered “needy” when their countable income is less than the minimum basic standard of $1,753 per month.

Family Size Region 1 Region 2
1 $862 $818
2 $1,415 $1,343
3 $1,753 $1,664
4 $2,080 $1,978
5 $2,373 $2,262
6 $2,670 $2,540
7 $2,934 $2,783
8 $3,193 $3,040

How much money do I get on CalWORKS? #

If you have no income and you are a family of three in a high-cost county, you can expect to receive a cash assistance of $1,130 per month.

That's how much CalWORKs pays for a family of three in California but may vary depending on where you live in California. 3

The additional monthly stipend provided to pregnant women on their first trimester of pregnancy has been increased from $47 to $100.

How long can I get CalWORKs in California? #

Receipt of CalWORKs is limited to no more than 60 countable months. There is, however, no time limit on aid for children up to age 18.

The CalWORKs Diversion Program is also available to potentially eligible applicants to help the family overcome a short-term crisis, offering a one-time "diversion payment" instead of monthly cash benefits.

Can I apply for CalWORKs online? #

Yes. You may apply for CalWORKs online at benefitsCAL. Often, the CalWORKs application is automatically used to assess the CalFresh eligibility.

There are welfare offices located in each of the 58 California counties. You may also apply for CalWORKs in person at any office located in the county where you live.

For more information on how to apply for CalWORKs, please call


  1. Region 1 includes the more urban counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Orange, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, and Ventura) where cost of living is higher. Region 2 includes the more rural counties not listed above.

  2. DB101 California, CalWORKs Eligibility & Application.

  3. California has different benefit levels based on geographic location and whether families are exempted from work requirements. The benefit levels reported here are for families in Region 1 (which includes the most populous counties) who are non-exempt.

Share this article