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What are the main types of financial assistance I can apply for in California?

California has a number of programs that provide financial assistance to state residents to help pay for food, housing and medical care among other things.

Welfare programs in California

For those who fall on hard times, there exist a number of programs to help deal with the financial stress and ensure that that basic needs are met. The financial assistance available are state-specific programs as well as federally funded programs managed by the state or county governments which operate under California-specific names.

Qualifying Golden State residents can get help through tax benefits to low-income workers and programs which provide money to buy food, pay for housing, get access to medical care. Those signed up for the financial assistance programs will be given an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which are known as the Golden State Advantage (GSA) card in California.

Also see:

The CalFresh Program

Federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the CalFresh Program provides households with money to meet their nutritional needs. The funds are loaded onto your GSA card on a monthly basis which you can use to purchase approved healthy and nutritious foods and even seeds to grow food at markets, food stores and some retailers are approved to accept CalFresh benefits online.

In order to participate in the program, low-income Golden State residents must meet federal income eligibility rules. Generally most households must have a total gross monthly income up to a maximum of 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), to be potentially eligible for CAlFresh.

Households with a person 60 years old or older, or is disabled, only need to meet the net income limit. Recipients of Supplemental Security Income and State Supplementary Payment became eligible for CAlFresh benefits as of 2019. The program is state-supervised and county-operated, so any changes to income or other circumstances must be notified to your local County Welfare Department. Changes may affect a participant’s eligibility for benefits.

The program is available to some non-citizens such as those admitted for humanitarian reasons and those admitted for permanent residence. Households can receive CAlFresh benefits even if not all members in the residence are eligible. Immigrants with a lawful permanent resident status or “qualified” immigration status that meet all other program eligibility criteria may qualify for another CalFresh Program called the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

CalWORKs program

The federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF) in the Golden State is known as California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs). This program, operated locally by county welfare departments, provides eligible low-income families with children immediate short-term assistance in the form of cash aid and services. The money can be used to help pay for clothing, food, housing, medical care or utilities.

Eligibility requirements include among other factors: age, assets income, resources and citizenship. The monthly amount that a family can receive depends on the number of people who are eligible and the special needs of any of those family members in addition to other factors. Household income is taken into account when calculating the amount of financial assistance the family receives.

American Indians can apply for the in California Tribal TANF Program.

Supplemental Security Income and State Supplementary Payment

For individuals who are aged 65 or older, blind or disabled may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and California State Supplementary Payment (SSP). SSI is a federally funded program through the Social Security Administration (SSA) which provides income support. Those that qualify for SSI also qualify for SSP, a state program which that boosts the amount recipients receive from the former. The SSA determines eligibility for the monthly cash assistance using federal criteria.

To apply for SSI/SSP, you need to visit your local Social Security office or phone 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Medi-Cal program

In the Golden State, the federal Medicaid program is called Medi-Cal, which offers no-cost and low-cost health coverage to eligible residents. Among the services Californian beneficiaries receive financial help with include paying for doctor visits, regular and emergency hospital care, immunization, pregnancy-related services, nursing home care and rehabilitation services, among others.

In addition to income requirements, which must be equal or less than 138% FPL, if you are enrolled in any of the before mentioned programs, as well as Refugee Assistance or Foster Care or Adoption Assistance Program, you can get Medi-Cal coverage.

The program, which provides health care services to about 13 million beneficiaries, is available to those who are 65 or older or under 21. Additionally, those who are blind, disabled or in a skilled nursing or intermediate care home. Also women who are pregnant or have been screened for breast and/or cervical cancer. Parents or a relative with caretaker status of an age eligible child can also get Medi-Cal coverage. As well as those on refugee status may also get California public health care coverage, depending on the length of stay in the US.

For those that don’t qualify for Medi-Cal because their income is too high, they may be able to Covered California. This is the Golden State “premium assistance” health insurance which lowers the cost of health care for individuals and families that meet the program income limits.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

Workers with low incomes may qualify for the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) which can reduce taxes owed or even provide a refund. Income and family size determine the amount of CalEITC that eligible Californians can receive. You may also be able to claim the federal EITC, together they can be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars. You can find out how much you could get using an EITC calculator provided by the Franchise Tax Board.

These tax refunds do not count as income when calculating benefits for CalWorks, CalFresh or Medi-Cal. It is necessary to file a state tax return to claim the CalEITC, and a federal tax return for the EITC through the IRS.

Taxpayers who are at least 18 years old or have a qualifying child, in addition to having earned income within certain limits may be eligible. The California qualifying criteria for taxpayers was updated for the 2021 tax year and beyond for those using the filing status married/registered domestic partners (RDP) who file separately.

Young Child Tax Credit

Californians that qualify for CalEITC and have a child under the age of 6, may also qualify for the Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC). Like the EITC, this is a refundable tax credit that can reduce you tax bill or be received a part of a tax refund which is worth up to $1,000.