It is not surprising that with the high cost of living in California, there is a relatively high percentage of Californians living in or near poverty. 1
And the recent series of recession and pandemic that hit the country only made it worst for the poorest of them — notably single mothers.
To help ease their financial burden, the “Golden State” offers several programs that are designed to make life a little easier for them.
The primary aim is to protect the neediest families during tough times — before they fall into poverty.
California joins 24 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting a state EITC to supplement the federal EITC — benefiting more than 2 million people in California.
California residents who made less than $30,000 in 2019 may be eligible for up to $8,000 in state and federal tax credits, depending on income and family size. 2
To claim credit, you will need to file a California income tax return and complete an FTB 3514, Earned Income Tax Credit form (FTB 3514 Instructions) or file directly with CalFile for free with a MyFTB account.
San Francisco Working Families Credit
San Francisco is also offering a local version of the federal EITC, known as the Working Families Credit (WFC). It is available for working families with children who qualify for the federal EITC and live in the city of San Francisco.
WFC applicants whom the city verifies as eligible (using data supplied by the IRS) receive a one-time credit from the city and county of San Francisco equal to a percentage of their federal EITC — up to $250 per family.
Due to limited funding, the WFC is only available to qualified applicants who have NEVER received this credit before. Those who have ever received the Working Families Credit need NOT apply.
CalWORKs is California’s welfare program that gives cash aid and services to eligible needy California families. If a family has little or no cash and needs housing, food, utilities, clothing or medical care, they may be eligible to receive immediate short-term help.
Most will only be eligible to receive CalWORKs for a maximum of 48 countable months. There is, however, no time limit on aid for children, but in some counties children may get vouchers instead of cash.
If you have no income, and you are a family of three, you will receive a cash assistance of roughly $785 per month. This amount may vary depending on where you live in California. 4
CalFresh (California’s version of SNAP) is an entitlement program that provides monthly benefits to assist low-income households in purchasing the food they need to maintain adequate nutritional levels.
The program issues monthly electronic benefits that can be used to buy most foods at many markets and food stores. The average amount of CalFresh benefits received per household with children is about $369 per month.
You may apply online via benefitsCAL or to find out how to apply for benefits in your county, please call the toll free number at 1-877-847-3663 (FOOD)
Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program. This program pays for a variety of medical services for children and adults whose financial situation would be characterized as low income or very low income.Advertisement
As California is expanding Medicaid coverage, Medi-Cal is no longer limited to pregnant women, children or the elderly. Now it covers almost all non-elderly adults up to 133% of poverty. Pregnant women are covered up to 208% of poverty.
California is operating a State-Based Marketplace, known as Covered California — through which you can apply for Medi-Cal or other private health insurance at lower costs.
American Indians and Alaska Natives who earn less than 300% of the federal poverty level for a family of four 5 will not have to pay certain out-of-pocket costs, such as copays and deductibles, if they buy their insurance through Covered California.
California Healthy Families
Healthy Families Program is low cost insurance for children and teens in California. It provides health, dental and vision coverage to uninsured children who do not qualify for Medi-Cal.
There will be no new enrollments of children into the Healthy Families Program. Families with uninsured children are encouraged to apply for coverage for their children through the Medi-Cal Program.
Medi-Cal Dental Program
Dental services for adults and children are currently provided as one of the many benefits under the Medi-Cal program. This includes the fee-for-service program — known as Denti-Cal, as well as dental managed care programs.
It covers a variety of services such as: diagnostic and preventive dental hygiene (e.g. examinations, x-rays, and teeth cleanings) as well as emergency services for pain control.
To find a Medi-Cal dentist in your area, call
Cal-Learn is a mandatory program for pregnant and parenting teens receiving CalWORKs, under 19 years of age, to attend and graduate from high school or its equivalent.
Incentives range from $100 to $500 will be awarded when the participant graduates from high school, passes the GED exam, or receives passing grades on a school report card.
Assistance may also come in the form of child care, transportation and educational expenses. Pregnant/parenting teens may apply for Cal-Learn services at any welfare office located in the county where they live. 7
WIC helps families with special checks for buying healthy supplemental foods from WIC-authorized vendors, nutrition education, and help finding healthcare and other community services.
Participants must meet income guidelines and be pregnant women, new mothers, infants or children under age five and individually determined by a health professional to be at nutrition risk.
Use the WIC eligibility assessment tool on WIC mobile to see if you qualify for WIC benefits or set up an appointment at a WIC local agency near you!
The Child Care Resource Center (CCRC) in California offers several financial assistance, or subsidy, programs to qualifying families who need help paying for child care.
Families that qualify for the program can choose their own child care provider. The CCRC will reimburse child care providers up to a certain amount.
The child care program in California is administered in three different stages — each with its own set of eligibility criteria.
CalWORKs Stage 1 Child CareStage 1 child care is available to CalWORKs families when they first become employed or engaged Welfare-to-Work activities. Each family may be served for up to six months or until the family is stable.
CalWORKs Stage 2 Child CareParents may be eligible for Stage 2 child care while they are receiving CalWORKs cash assistance, and for up to 24 months.
CalWORKs Stage 3 Child CareStage 3 is available only to families who have received Stage 1 or 2 child care for 24 months after leaving CalWORKs cash assistance, and thus have “timed out” of Stage 2 benefits.
Families remain in Stage 3 until the family’s income exceeds 70% of the state median income or until the children are over the eligibility age.
Parents who are employed, participating in a vocational goal or job training, or engaged in other approved activities may also apply for California Alternative Payment Programs that provide subsidies to pay for child care.
This subsidized program is available for child care support from birth through twelve years of age. Parents who are incapacitated and families that are homeless may also be eligible.
California Access for Infants & Mothers (AIM)
Access for Infants & Mothers (AIM) is a state program that provides low-cost health insurance for the uninsured, middle-income pregnant women who are not eligible for no-cost Medi-Cal or traditional health insurance. 8
If you qualify for AIM, your baby is automatically eligible for enrollment in Healthy Families for the first year after birth. For additional info, call California’s Access for Infants and Mothers (AIM) at 1-800-443-2611.
Calfornia’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps eligible low-income households with their utility bills, particularly those with the lowest incomes and the highest home energy costs.
Eligible households may receive one regular HEAP benefit each year to help pay for heating their home — ranging from $21 to $575 depending on the type of fuel used as the primary heating source.
You may also be eligible for Energy Crisis Intervention Program (ECIP if you are in danger of running out of fuel or having your utility service shut off in less than 48 hours.
Unemployment insurance benefits provide temporary financial assistance to workers unemployed through no fault of their own — for up to 26 weeks. Weekly benefit amounts range from a minimum of $40 to a maximum of $450.
In order to qualify for this benefit program, you must have worked in the past 12 to 18 months, and have earned at least a minimum amount of wages as determined by the State’s guidelines.
You can apply for UI or reopen a UI claim online using UI Online or if you wish to file your claim over the phone, please call UI Self-Service Phone Line at 1-866-333-4606.
Under California’s Paid Family Leave, eligible employees may take up to eight (8) weeks of paid leave to be with their families. The weekly benefits range from $50 to a maximum of $1,300 but usually no more than 70% of their weekly earnings.
To apply for PFL benefits, you must complete and submit a Claim for Paid Family Leave (PFL) Benefits or use SDI Online instead of submitting the form by mail.
Cal Grant is a need-based grant that have helped many low-income Californians fund their college education. It’s a free money for college you don’t have to pay back.
There are three kinds of Cal Grants — A, B and C — but you don’t have to figure out which one to apply for as eligibility will be based on your FAFSA and choice of school.
To apply for a Cal Grant, you must complete and submit two forms: the FAFSA and the Cal Grant GPA Verification Form no later than March 2 each year.References
- Public Policy Institute of California, Poverty in California
- CBPP, How Much Can Californians Benefit From the CalEITC and Young Child Tax Credit?
- CalWORKs serves all 58 counties in the state and is operated locally by county welfare departments.
- CalWORKs Maximum Grant Levels
- In 2020, that would be an income of approximately $78,600.
- California DHCS – Healthy Families Program (HFP) Transition To Medi-Cal.
- To find a nearby office, contact your county social services agency.
- AIM is also for moms who have health insurance, but their deductible or co-pay for maternity care is more than $500.
- Use this interactive map to find a local service provider near you.
- Beginning July 1, 2014, PFL will cover caregiving for a seriously ill parent, spouse, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law.