Criteria for Welfare Eligibility in California


Some families in California require financial assistance to meet their basic needs. For these families, the state offers several programs, including California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids(CalWORKs), CalFresh, Welfare-To-Work and General Assistance and/or General Relief (GA/GR). These programs, however, are not open to every resident. Families must meet several general criteria to be eligible.

Overview of California's Welfare Services

  • California's welfare programs are managed by the state government and operated by the local governments of its 58 counties. Each county has its own welfare department that administers the state-funded assistance programs. These programs provide assistance to all types of individuals living in California, from infants to seniors. Because these programs serve different groups, they have different criteria for eligibility. However, all counties must honor the general criteria, which are established by the state government, for each program.


  • Almost all welfare programs in California require that those seeking enrollment be citizens of the United States, whether they are born citizens or have been naturalized. This is true of the CalWORKS, CalFresh and GA/GR programs, as well as the federally funded programs such as supplemental security income (SSI) and the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) program. However, there are also programs designed to assist non-citizens, such as the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI), for which foreign citizenship is a requirement.


  • Proof of low income or financial need is also commonly required for enrollment into California welfare programs. The specific income threshold varies from program to program and by age and number of dependents, but the applicant must show proof in the form of job history, pay stubs and tax information for most programs. Also, some programs, such as CalWORKS, require the applicant to submit to an interview and inspection of his or her current living quarters so that a government official can assess actual need.

Age and Family Status

  • Age and family status are two other criteria for California welfare programs. Programs such as CalWORKS and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program require that applicants be recent mothers, be soon-to-be mothers or have families with one or more children under 18. Other programs, such as SSI, CAPI and In-Home Supportive Services, require that the applicant(s) be at least 65 years old.

Disability and Health

  • Finally, beyond citizenship, income, age and family status, welfare programs in California consider the health and mobility of the applicant. Individuals who are blind, disabled, injured war veterans or terminally ill may qualify for programs such as the Assistance Dog Special Allowance Program (ADSA) or California Veterans Cash Benefit (CVCB).

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