Can Welfare Turn You Down for a Cash Benefit?


Since the federal government established the welfare program in 1935 with the Social Security Act, low-income families and individuals have benefited from access to money that helps pay for necessities. Today the individual states control welfare with programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Limited state resources and changing administration behind welfare programs means that welfare must turn down some applicants for cash benefits.

Benefit Eligibility

State welfare eligibility relies on a number of factors, which means that the welfare system can deny benefits for one or more of several reasons. Income is a major issue, with only the lowest earning families qualifying for welfare payments. Family size is another issue; large families with multiple dependents are eligible at higher income levels than smaller families or individuals. And state welfare programs reserve benefits for people in need, such as the homeless, disabled, pregnant and unemployed, which may leave little money for people not facing one of these emergencies.

Termination of Benefits

Welfare recipients may lose access to their benefits even after they have been qualified as eligible, which can occur if the state's welfare eligibility limits change to reflect budget cuts. Termination of benefits also occurs when welfare recipients boost their income with new employment or job advancement. As family sizes shrink when dependent children move out or become financially independent, families can fall below the welfare threshold and stop receiving benefits. Welfare applicants who supply false information will also be denied benefits once administrators discover the problem.

Administrative Errors

State welfare programs are complicated systems that undergo frequent change to maintain a balance between limited resource availability and public need, which means that there is a very real possibility that the system will deny welfare applicants who are eligible for benefits. Computer errors, misinterpretation of federal guidelines and misplaced paperwork can all lead to an incorrect denial of benefits. Such errors are illegal and possibly unconstitutional since welfare benefits are a legal entitlement and recipients have special rights under federal law.


If your state's welfare program denies your benefits, you have several options. If you understand the eligibility requirements and feel that the system has denied your application due to an error, you can contact a welfare representative or caseworker to explain the situation. If your state continues to deny your benefits, you can take legal action by consulting with an attorney and pursuing your rights to receive benefits. If the system denies your benefits on legitimate grounds, you can look elsewhere for financial assistance. Community grant programs and nonprofit charities offer benefits that don't use the same eligibility criteria as state welfare programs.

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