California



  • $704
    Monthly Cash Benefit
  • $382
    Monthly SNAP Benefit
  • $450
    Maximum Weekly Benefit
  • 133%
    Income Eligibility

It is not surprising that with the high cost of living in California, there is a relatively high percentage of Californians [20.6%] who live in poverty.1

And the recent series of recession 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 Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC)


California joins 24 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting a state EITC to supplement the federal EITC — benefiting 600,000 families in California. For the CalEITC, the most a family could get is $2,706.

California’s new EITC will benefit families with very low earnings. As with the federal EITC, families without earned income are ineligible. No family with earnings above $14,161 will qualify for the credit.

NO. of CHILDRENCA. MAXIMUM INCOMECal EITC
None$6,717$217
1$10,087$1,452
2$14,161$2,406
3 or more$14,161$2,706

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).


WSan 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.


1California CalWORKs (TANF)


CalWORKs 2 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.

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.

You may apply for CalWORKs at any office located in the county where you live or online at myBenefits. 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.


How much does CalWORKS pay per child?

If you have no income, and you are a family of three, you will receive a cash assistance of roughly $704 per month. This amount may vary depending on where you live in California.3


2CalFresh


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 with children is about $380 per month.

You may apply online via myBenefits or to find out how to apply for benefits in your county, please call the toll free number at 1-877-847-3663 (FOOD)


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 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 four4 will not have to pay certain out-of-pocket costs, such as copays and deductibles, if they buy their insurance through Covered California.


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.

Update
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.5

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.


5Medi-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.

Find a Med-Cal dentist in your area here.


6Cal-Learn


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.6


7California 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.

Use the Prescreening Tool at myBenefits to see if you may qualify for WIC benefits. If you need immediate assistance, please call 800-224-7472.


By 2019, the NYS WIC Program will be moving to an electronic benefit transfer system (eWIC). eWIC will allow WIC participants to purchase foods using an eWIC card instead of paper checks.


8California 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.

The child care program in California is administered in three different stages — each with its own set of eligibility criteria.

  • CalWORKs Stage 1 Child Care
  • Stage 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 Care
  • Parents 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 Care
  • Stage 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.


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.7

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.


10California Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)


Calfornia’s Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) 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.

When the HEAP season is open you may apply online via myBenefits or apply in person at your HEAP Local District Contact.8 Due to limited funding, applicants are prioritized based on greatest need.


You may also also be eligible for emergency HEAP benefits if you are in danger of running out of fuel or having your utility service shut off in less than 48 hours.


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.9

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 $1,173 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.

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. Public Policy Institute of California, Poverty in California
  2. CalWORKs serves all 58 counties in the state and is operated locally by county welfare departments.
  3. CalWORKs Maximum Grant Levels
  4. In 2017, that would be an income of approximately $73,800.
  5. California DHCS – Healthy Families Program (HFP) Transition To Medi-Cal.
  6. To find a nearby office, contact your county social services agency.
  7. AIM is also for moms who have health insurance, but their deductible or co-pay for maternity care is more than $500.
  8. Click here to find HEAP contacts by county or local district
  9. Beginning July 1, 2014, PFL will cover caregiving for a seriously ill parent, spouse, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law.