Financial Help for Single Mothers in California

It is not surprising that with the population of California, there is a relatively high percentage of single-mother families.

And the recent series of recession that hit the country only made it worst for the poorest of them.

To help these women get back on their feet, the state of California offers several programs that are designed to make life a little easier for them.

The aim is to protect the neediest families during tough times — before they fall into poverty.

2California CalWORKs (TANF)

CalWORKs 1 is a 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.

You may apply for CalWORKs at any office located in the county where you live or online at Often, the CalWORKs application is automatically used to assess the CalFresh eligibility.

Families that receive CalWORKs may also qualify for Medi-Cal which will pay for most medical costs and be eligible for child care services, such as help paying child care costs.


CalFresh (formerly known as Food Stamps) 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 is about $200 per month.

3California Medi-Cal

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.

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 138% 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.

4California 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.

Children enrolled in the Healthy Families Program began transitioning to Medi-Cal on January 1, 2013. The change is the result of a decision by state lawmakers to merge the health care programs for children into one program.2

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.

5California Special Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC)

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.

Take the WIC Eligibility Assessment to see if you may qualify for WIC benefits or call 1-888-WIC-WORKS (1-888-942-9675) for assistance.

6California Subsidized Child Care Program

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.

Here is a complete list of all the available programs (click here) — each with its own set of eligibility criteria. For more information, please contact CCRC at (818) 717-1000.

7California Head Start

California Head Start provides comprehensive educational, health, nutritional, and social services for low-income children from birth to entry into elementary school.

In order to qualify for this benefit program, you must be a resident of the state of California and be responsible for a child who is too young for public school.

8California Summer Food Service

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a federally funded program that provides free nutritious meals to children in low-income areas. The program operates throughout the summer months when they are out of school.

For more information, you may contact the staff of the California Department of Education, Nutrition Services Division, at 800-952-5609.

9California 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.3

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.


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. To find a nearby office, click here.

11California Unemployment Insurance

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 eApply4UI or if you wish to file your claim over the phone, please call 1-800-300-5616 or 1-800-326-8937 for Spanish.

12California Paid Family Leave (PFL) Program

California leads the nation as the first to provide paid leave benefits for employees who need to “take time off” to bond with a newborn baby or provide care for a seriously ill family member.4

Under California’s Paid Family Leave, eligible employees may take up to six (6) weeks of paid leave to be with their families. The weekly benefits range from $50 to a maximum of $1,075 but usually no more than 55% of their weekly earnings.

To apply for PFL benefits, you may submit a Claim for Paid Family Leave (PFL) Benefits (DE 2501F) form online or call the Employment Development Department (EDD) at 1-877-238-4373 for assistance.

13Cal Grant

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.

With a Cal Grant A, you can get up to $12,192 a year to pay for college expenses at any qualifying California college or university in California. Cal Grant B pays up up to $1,648 for educational-related books and living expenses.

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.

  1. CalWORKs serves all 58 counties in the state and is operated locally by county welfare departments. []
  2. California DHCS – Healthy Families Program (HFP) Transition To Medi-Cal. []
  3. AIM is also for moms who have health insurance, but their deductible or co-pay for maternity care is more than $500. []
  4. Beginning July 1, 2014, PFL will cover caregiving for a seriously ill parent, spouse, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law. []