SmartLaw: Attorney and Lawyer Referral Service. Divorce, bankruptcy, criminal, accident, business
SmartLaw.org
Home
 
The Los Angeles County Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service, the largest and oldest such service in the United States, has hundreds of pre-screened, qualified and insured lawyers in the Los Angeles area who can help you with your legal issues. Contact us now and our courteous, professionally trained staff will help you connect you with the right lawyer. The LRIS is a nonprofit public service of LACBA.

Message #621 Welfare for families with children

mp3 #621 CalWorks - Welfare for Families with Children (mp3 file)


This SmartLaw message will discuss the following questions:

1--What is CalWORKS?

2--How do you qualify for CalWORKS?

3--How much money will you receive from CalWORKS?

4--For how long will you receive money from CalWORKS?

5--What happens to your family if you reach the 5-year time limit?

6 --Will you still be able to receive Medi-Cal medical benefits after your 60 months on CalWORKS are over?

7--Do all adults in the family have to work in order to receive CalWORKS?

8--If you do not qualify for an exemption, what must you do to get CalWORKS?

9--Do you need to have a job right away?

10--What if you cannot find any work after the 18 or 24 month period?

11--What if you cannot work?

12--What if you are already in school or job training?

13--Are there any other requirements that you should know about?

14--Can you get CalWORKS if you are an immigrant?

15--If you are an undocumented immigrant, can you get CalWORKS for your children who are U.S. citizens?

16--Will you be reported to the INS if you are undocumented and you apply for CalWORKS for your children?

First, what is CalWORKS? CalWORKS is the state program that has replaced the AFDC program. CalWORKS is shorthand for "California work opportunity and responsibility to kids." CalWORKS provides cash for basic living expenses to families with one or more children, plus food stamps and Medi-Cal for medical needs.

 

2--How do you qualify for CalWORKS?

To qualify for CalWORKS, your family must have a very low income, and have very little property. For a family of three, your gross countable income must be no more than $775 per month. A family of any size must have countable resources or property worth no more than $2,000. The maximum property amount increases to $3,000 if one member of the family is age 60 or over. The rules are very complicated about what income and resources are actually counted and there are many exceptions about what is countable. The children in the family must be deprived of parental support or care, because one or both parents are either absent from the home, or disabled or dead, or unemployed. Deprivation of parental care and support is not affected by the presence in the home of a stepparent, boyfriend, or girlfriend, however.

3--How much money will you receive from CalWORKS?

If you have no income, and you are a family of 3 persons, you will receive a cash grant of approximately $723 per month. This figure will vary depending on your individual circumstances and where you live in California.

If you have earned income from a job while you are on CalWORKS, special rules apply which allow you to have more money each month. The first $225 you earn each month is yours to keep, before any earnings are subtracted from your CalWORKS cash grant. In addition, one-half of your remaining earnings are also yours to keep, before the other half of your remaining earnings are subtracted from your CalWORKS cash grant.

As an example, suppose your gross monthly job earnings are $625. The first $225 is yours to keep. $625 less $225 is $400. Only 1/2 of the $400, or $200, is subtracted from the $723 CalWORKS payment. When $200 is deducted from $723, the result is $523, which would be the amount of your CalWORKS cash grant. But the total monthly income for your family would be $225, plus $200, plus $523, for a total of $948. Thus there is a big financial incentive for you to work while you are on CalWORKS. In this example, your monthly income while working would be a total of $948, as compared to only $723 if you had no job earnings.

4--How long will you receive welfare benefits?

Most adults will only be able to get cash benefits for a total of 60 months (5 years) in a lifetime. Some adults do not have a time limit on aid (for example, if they are over 60 years old, or if they are taking care of a child who is a ward of the court). There is no time limit on aid for children, but in some counties children may get vouchers instead of cash.

5--What happens to your family if you reach the 5-year limit?

After you have reached your 5 year limit, your children can still get aid. Your children will get either vouchers or cash assistance, depending on what your county decides. You will not be eligible for general assistance/general relief or any other cash aid until your children are grown.

6--Will you still be able to get Medi-Cal after your 60 months on CalWORKS are over? Yes, in most cases. You don't need to get welfare in order to get Medi-Cal.

7--Do all adults in the family have to work in order to get CalWORKS? Yes. Most adults are required to work. But if you qualify for one of the following exemptions, you do not have to meet the work requirements. You may be exempted if you are:

*taking care of a child under 6 months old (check with your county -- counties can shorten this to 3 months or lengthen it to 12 months), or if you are

*disabled for at least 30 days (and you have medical proof) ; or if you are

*taking care of a child who is a ward of the court or there is a risk of foster care and the caretaker's responsibilities prevent work; or if you are

*a pregnant woman with medical proof that you cannot work; or if you are

*a teen parent in Cal-LEARN (a required program to get a high school diploma or GED); or if you are

*only getting aid for your children, not for yourself. But even if you do not have to work, the months when you receive aid can still count toward the lifetime time limit.

8--If you do not qualify for a work exemption, what do you need to do to get CalWORKS?

If you are a single parent, you must work, or do "job search," or be enrolled in training or workfare between 20 and 40 hours a week (depending on what your county decides). In the future, the hours will go up.

9--Do you need to have a job right away?

No. First the CalWORKS agency will look at your work history, skills, child care and other needs, and assign you to activities or employment. This is called a Welfare-To-Work plan. Before you find a job, you can participate in employment and training activities for up to 18-24 months. This can include basic math, reading, or English as a second language. You can also get services that you may need to get and keep a job, such as mental health or substance abuse services, or services for victims of domestic violence.

You can be in Welfare-To-Work activities for 18 months.

10--What if you cannot find any work after the 18 month period?

The county cannot cut you off if you have applied for all appropriate positions, and have not refused work without good cause. After your 18 months of Welfare-To-Work activities, you will have to work in a community service job while you get aid. You will also have to apply for any appropriate jobs, and you cannot refuse to work.

11-What if you cannot work?

The county can excuse you from work for "good cause." Reasons can include domestic violence, lack of reasonable child-care for a child under 12, a mental disability, or other reasons. The county will consider each situation on a case-by-case basis.

12--What if you are already in school or job training?

You can stay in school if the county determines it will lead to work. However, you cannot go to school or training if you already have an undergraduate degree (BA or BS) unless you are getting a teaching credential. If you choose to attend school or job training, the combined classroom hours plus your work hours must equal a total of 32 hours a week.

13--Are there any other requirements that you should know about?

*immunization -you have from 30 to 45 days 10 provide proof of immunizations for all children under age 6, with a 30-day extension if your county determines "good cause." this rule applies both to people who are applying for aid, and to people who are already receiving aid.

*school attendance - your aid will be reduced if your schoolage children do not attend school regularly.

*child support cooperation - your grant will be cut by 25% if you do not cooperate with the district attorney in establishing paternity (which is helping prove who is the father of your child) and enforcing child support. Your grant will not be cut, however, if you show "good cause" (for example, if you fear violence or abuse) .

*welfare fraud - if you commit welfare fraud, you will be barred from receiving CalWORKS for at least 6 months, and possibly as long as a lifetime, depending on the circumstances. Your children will still be able to get aid, however.

*drug felony - if you are convicted of a felony for use, possession, sale or transport of drugs after January 1, 1998, you will never be able to get CalWORKS or food stamps. If you are disqualified from CalWORKS because of a drug felony, you will also be barred from general assistance. However, your children will still qualify for aid, but it may be paid by vouchers.

*fleeing felons and parole violators - if you are fleeing prosecution or violating parole, you will not be able to get CalWORKS or general assistance. Other family members can still get aid, however.

14--Can you get CalWORKS if you are an immigrant?

If you are a "qualified" immigrant, you can get CalWORKS if you meet the income and other program rules. If your children are citizens or qualified immigrants, they can get CalWORKS even if you are not a qualified immigrant.

You are a ii qualified ii immigrant if you are a:

*lawful permanent resident (you have a green card); or if you area

*refugee or were granted asylum or withholding of deportation, or were paroled into the U.S. for at least one year; or if you are a

*cuban or haitian entrant; or if you are a

*battered spouse (or child), and your spouse (or parent) has filed a visa petition for you, or you have filed a visa petition for yourself under the violence against women act. There are special rules for victims of domestic violence.

If you don't fit into one of these categories, then you are a "not qualified" immigrant. Some "not qualified" immigrants, such as persons who are paroled into the United States for less than one year, granted indefinite voluntary departure, or an indefinite stay of deportation, may also be able to get CalWORKS.

15--If you are an undocumented immigrant can you get CalWORKS for your children who are U.S. citizens?

Yes. Your children can get aid if they are citizens or "qualified" immigrants. If you are not getting aid for yourself, the agency cannot require you to work or do community service in order for your children to receive aid.

16--Will you be reported to the INS if you are undocumented, and you apply for CalWORKS for your children?

The state CalWORKS agency only has to report you to the INS if it knows you are not lawfully in the United States. You do not need to tell anyone that you are undocumented. If anyone asks about your immigration status, be careful. You should tell your welfare workers that you are not trying to get benefits for yourself, and that you are a "not qualified" immigrant. "not qualified" is not the same as undocumented. If the CalWORKS application form asks if you are undocumented, you can scratch out the word "undocumented" and write "not qualified" next to the box that you check. That is all they need to know.

Remember, it is illegal for the government to treat you differently just because of the way you look or because you are from a particular country.

Calworks' laws and rules are very lengthy and very complicated. This SmartLaw message does not provide all the information you may need to know about CalWORKS. When you apply for CalWORKS at the local office of your county's Department of Public Social Services, your eligibility worker can give you additional information about CalWORKS. Further information about CalWORKS is also available from the free legal aid office in your county. CalWORKS regulations do change from time to time. Also keep in mind that some regulations may vary from one county to another.

Back to Top

() -

 
 

Find a lawyer outside of California.