Food stamps and cash aid both help low-income families support themselves. Food stamps supplement families' food purchases, while cash aid provides them with money for making everyday purchases. In California, the Department of Social Services evaluates families' eligibility for both of these programs. Families may receive greater benefits if they are larger and if they make less income; a family of five, for example, will get more benefits than a family of three.
Variation by County
The maximum amount of aid a family of five can receive in California varies by the county the family lives in. In general, welfare programs base the amount of aid they provide to families on the federal poverty guidelines, which is based on the median income for each county in the United States. Thus, counties with a higher standard of living will provide greater benefits than counties with a lower standard of living.
DSS reports that in January 2011, families with five members were able to receive up to $897 to $941 per month in cash aid, depending on where in California they lived. Families in California were also able to receive up to $793 in food stamps for the same period. Families receive benefits based on their income; the less money a family makes, the more benefits it is likely to receive.
Difference Between Programs
Cash aid programs and food stamp programs have different eligibility criteria. For example, only families with dependent children are eligible for CalWORKs, while any adult living in the household who helps purchase and prepare food is eligible for food stamps. Thus a family might be considered to have fewer people in it for CalWORKs purposes than for food stamp purposes or may not qualify for one program at all. If fewer members of a family qualify for CalWORKs, that family will receive less cash aid than food stamp aid.
How to Apply
You can apply for both the CalWORKs and food stamp programs at your local DSS office. Bring proof of your income and of living expenses such as rent and utilities. A DSS representative will interview you to determine your eligibility for both programs after you fill out your application. You will receive a final decision on your eligibility within 30 days of your application.
- California Department of Social Services: Public Assistance Facts and Figures; January 2011
- Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services: CalWORKs Eligibility
- USDA Food and Nutrition Services: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- California Department of Finance: Lower Living Income Levels and Poverty Guidelines; 2008
- CalFRESH: How to Apply for CalFRESH Benefits, Formerly Known as Food Stamps
- Department of Social Services: CalWORKS Program
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