California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)

CalWORKs is a Human Services program that gives cash aid and services to eligible California families. The program serves all 58 counties in the state and is operated locally by county welfare departments.

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. Families that apply and qualify for ongoing assistance receive money each month to help pay for housing, food and other necessary expenses.

The amount of a family’s monthly assistance payment depends on a number of factors, including the number of people who are eligible and the special needs of any of those family members. The income of the family is considered in calculating the amount of cash aid the family receives.

There are other programs and benefits, such as Homeless Assistance, for which a family may qualify by being on CalWORKs.

Who Qualifies for CalWORKS

Specific eligibility requirements take into account an applicant’s citizenship, age, income, resources, and other factors. Generally, services are available to:

Families that have an age-eligible child(ren) in the home or are pregnant and deprived due to one or both parents:

  • Death,
  • Absence,
  • Physical or mental incapacity,
  • Unemployment

Basic Eligibility Requirements

  • Residence in California and intend to stay.
  • Provide verification of income.
  • Have less than $2,000 in resources ($3,000 if 60 years or older).
  • Provide proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful immigrant status.
  • Have Social Security Number verification or proof of application for all family members.
  • Proof of immunization for all children under the age of six.
  • Additional facts or verifications may be required.

Time Limits

CalWORKs parents or caretaker relatives are limited to a total of 48-months of cash assistance. This also applies to any months (from January 1998 on) in which the parent(s) received cash aid from any state. There are, however, certain exemptions to the 48-month lifetime limit which can be explained by your Eligibility Specialist. Once the CalWORKs 48-month lifetime limit is reached, unless an extension is authorized, the adult will no longer be eligible for CalWORKs. However, children may remain eligible.

Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) and Direct Deposit

CalWORKs benefits are provided to eligible persons using one of the following two methods:

CalWORKS benefits are received through a plastic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card at automated teller (ATM) and point-of-sale (POS) machines. Under certain circumstances, CalWORKS benefits may be received via Direct Deposit into a bank account. Benefits cannot be put onto a pay card.

Documents You May Need to Provide

Your Eligibility Worker will tell you what documents you need to provide. The documents will be used to see if you are eligible for CalWORKs, and to figure out what the payments to you and your family will be. The following list contains examples of the kind of documents you may need to provide to your Eligibility Worker. 

Proof of Deprivation

  • Death Certificate(s)
  • Supplemental Security Income Award Letter (SSDI, SSI/SSP, SSA Retirement, etc)
  • Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UIB)—Approval or Denial Letter

Proof of Age

  • Birth Certificates
  • Naturalization Certificate  
  • Immigration Card

Proof of Residence

  • Utility Bill or Rent Receipt

Proof of Citizenship, Noncitizen Status, or Immigrant Status

  • Birth Certificate
  • Alien Registration Card

Social Security Number

Give the county your number OR if you or a family member does not have a  number:

Proof of Application for Social Security Card

Proof of Immunizations for Children Under the Age of Six

  • Immunization (Shots) Record 

Proof of Income

  • Pay Stubs
  • Award Letter
  • Letter Papers that show where the money came from


In some instances, the county may request verification of property.