California, CA

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. To help ease their financial burden, the “Golden State” offers several programs that are tailored to make life a little easier for them.

California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) #

California joins 31 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 earned less than $30,000 may be eligible for up to $10,350 in state and federal tax credits, depending on income and family size. 1

If you qualify for CalEITC and have a child under the age of 6, you may also qualify for a refundable tax credit of up to $1,083 through the Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC)! If you qualify, you may see a reduced tax bill or a bigger refund.

How do you claim California EITC?

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.

Questions about WFC?
Call (415) 557-6284

CalWORKs #

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.

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

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 $925 per month. This amount may vary depending on where you live in California.

CalFresh #

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 — up to $349 per month for a family of three with no income.

How do I apply for CalFresh in California?

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

California 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. Pregnant women are covered up to 213% of poverty level.

Children under the age of 19 qualify for Medi-Cal when their family has a household income of 266% or less. That's about $61,260 or less a year for a family of three.

Plan options vary depending on the county you reside in. Most counties offer commercial plans including

  1. Anthem Blue Cross,
  2. Kaiser Permanente,
  3. Health Net, and
  4. Molina.

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.

Be sure to have the necessary documents on hand before starting your application for a seamless enrollment process. Use the quick calculator to get an estimate of what you’ll pay for your plan.

American Indians and Alaska Natives who earn less than 300% of the federal poverty level for a family of four 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 #

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.

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 Access Program (MCAP) #

The Medi-Cal Access Program (MCAP), formerly known as the Access for Infants and Mothers Program (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. 2

MCAP is also for moms who have health insurance, but their deductible or co-pay for maternity care is more than $500. Application is through Covered California.

If you qualify for MCAP, your baby is automatically eligible for coverage in the Medi-Cal Access Infant Program for up to two years.

For additional info, call Medi-Cal Access Program (MCAP)

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
(800) 423-0507

Cal-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.

California 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.

How do I apply for WIC in California?

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!

CalWORKs Child Care #

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 CalWORKs Child Care program in California is administered in three different stages — each with its own set of eligibility criteria.

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.

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.

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 94% of the state median income or until the children are over the eligibility age.

California Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) #

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.

How do I apply for LIHEAP in California?

When the LIHEAP season is open, you may apply online or in person at a local service provider in your area. 9 Due to limited funding, applicants are prioritized based on greatest need.

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.

California Unemployment Insurance #

Unemployment insurance benefits provide temporary financial assistance to workers unemployed through no fault of their own — up to $450 a week.

In California, unemployment benefits typically last for up to 26 weeks, unless otherwise extended during periods of high unemployment.

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.

If you’re self-employed, you may be eligible for an additional $100 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits under Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation, or MEUC.

How do I claim my weeks for unemployment in California?

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.

Starting July 11, 2021, if you are on unemployment, you are expected to search for work to maintain your eligibility for benefits.

California 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.

Beginning July 1, 2014, PFL will cover caregiving for a seriously ill parent, spouse, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law.

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 $1,620 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 #

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. CBPP, How Much Can Californians Benefit From the CalEITC and Young Child Tax Credit?
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