Apply For California TANF Benefits

Learn how to apply for California TANF. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, called California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS), may help you become self-supportive while receiving monthly cash benefits to meet your everyday needs such as rent, utilities, clothes, transportation, or additional expenses.

Sometimes you may not be eligible to receive TANF for yourself, but a child or children in your household may. The TANF program is administered by the Health and Human Services Agency. In most cases, in order to qualify for TANF you must meet both types of eligibility, categorical and financial.

Additionally, to qualify for TANF there are work requirements. The CA TANF program requires most adults be employed or participate in certain work-related activities, which you will be assigned for a certain number of hours on a weekly basis in order to continue receiving TANF benefits.

The total number of hours needed to fulfill your work activity requirement depends on your family composition. Qualified state residents are required to produce information including household income, age, citizenship and resources.

Only household members who are eligible for California TANF can receive welfare benefits. For more information about applying for CA TANF benefits, view the information below. If you still have questions or issues, then contact TANF California.

CalWORKS TANF program

CalWORKS is the TANF program in California. It is a public assistance program that provides cash aid and services to eligible families that have a child(ren) in the home. The program is operated locally by county welfare departments.

If a family has little or no cash and needs housing, food, utilities, clothing or medical care, they may be eligible to receive immediate short-term help. Families that apply and qualify for ongoing assistance receive money each month to help pay for housing, food and other necessary expenses.

The amount of a family's monthly assistance payment depends on a number of factors, including the number of people who are eligible and the special needs of any of those family members.

The income of the family is considered in calculating the amount of cash aid the family receives. Specific eligibility requirements include an applicant's citizenship, age, income, resources, assets and other factors. Generally, services are available to:

  • Families that have a child(ren) in the home who has been deprived of parental support or care because of the absence, disability or death of either parent
  • Families with a child(ren) when both parents are in the home but the principal earner is unemployed
  • Needy caretaker relatives of a foster child(ren)

California TANF eligibility

To be eligible for CalWORKs, there must be a child in the home who is deprived of parental support and care because one or both of their parents are:

  • Deceased
  • Disabled
  • Unemployed or
  • Continuously Absent from the home

A child is considered a person under age 18 (or under age 19 if the child is currently attending high school and will graduate before their 19th birthday). In addition, a CalWORKs applicant must meet the residency, income, and resource requirements of the program. CalWORKs benefits may be available to the following persons in a family:

  • An eligible child
  • Parents or caretakers of the eligible child
  • Pregnant women in their last trimester
  • Certain pregnant or parenting teens
  • Certain non-parent relatives who are caring for the child(ren)

Applying for California TANF benefits

You can start the application process by applying online at or contact your county social services agency in your county. Once approved all family members participating in CalWORKs program must work or participate in an activity through the CalWORKs Welfare-to-Work program, in order to get CalWORKs except:

  • Child(ren) under 16
  • Persons over 59 years of age
  • Child(ren) 16 through 18 years of age who are in school full time
  • Mother or caretaker of a child under 6 months of age

Certain people are exempt from this requirement due to specific reasons, like a medical condition. To receive cash aid in CalWORKs, you will be required to participate in the Welfare-to-Work Program, unless you are exempt. If a woman is pregnant, she may be eligible to a pregnancy special needs allowance.

Documents required to apply for TANF

You must provide proof of some information you gave in the California TANF application. The county will need to have verification's before your application can be approved. The following are examples of verification you may need to provide. If you have other types of proof not listed, please talk to a county worker.

  • Birth/Citizenship
  • Birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Baptismal certificate (with date and place of birth)
  • Statement of witness to birth
  • Original birth certificates for Medi-Cal
  • Income
  • Most recent paycheck stub(s)
  • Letter from employer
  • Copy of child support check or payment stub
  • Benefits award letter (Social Security/ Veterans/Unemployment/Disability, etc.)
  • Self-employment tax forms (IRS Schedule C, etc.)
  • Receipts for self-employment income for work expenses
    School grants/loans/financial aid statement
  • Sponsor statement form
  • Immigration Status (non-citizens)
  • Immigration papers/forms/cards (copy of both sides)
  • Certificate of naturalization
  • Other proof from immigration (USCIS), such as: work authorization, letter of decision or court order on your case, etc
  • Property/Resources
  • Vehicle registration
  • Proof of loans or debts/liens on property
  • Statement of joint ownership
  • Most recent mortgage bill(s)
  • Property deed
  • Most recent bank statements
  • Life insurance policy, stocks, bonds, IRAs
  • Most recent retirement account statement(s)
  • Sponsor statement form
  • Settlements such as lawsuits and insurance claims
  • Burial plots/crypts
  • Proof of Other Expenses
  • Child/dependent care receipts
  • Statement from child/dependent care provider
  • Receipts for school expenses
  • Cancelled check/receipt of child/spousal support Payments
  • Identity
  • Drivers license or identification card
  • Photo ID (from DMV, school, etc.)
  • Passport
  • USCIS documents
  • Relationship
  • Court papers (divorce, guardianship, etc.)
  • Marriage certificate
  • Domestic partner certificate
  • Birth certificate
  • Housing and Utility Costs
  • Rental agreement or rent receipts
  • Mortgage bill
  • Utility bill
  • Property tax statement
  • Home or renter's insurance bills
  • Hotel/motel receipt
  • Cancelled checks or copies
  • Statement explaining housing arrangement
  • Residence
  • Utility bill
  • Rental agreement
  • Bill or other document(s) with name and address
  • Driver's license or Identification card
  • Eviction notice/notice to pay rent or quit
  • Medical Expenses
  • Medical bills or receipts
  • Medical transportation bills or receipts
  • Health or dental insurance policies or premiums
  • Medicare card (for Medi-Cal only)
  • Medical Verification
  • Proof of pregnancy from doctor or clinic, with expected due date
  • Doctor statement or disability funding by an agency (SSA/SDI/VA, etc.)
  • Pharmacy bill
  • Immunization Records (for kids under 6 years old)
  • Statement that immunizations are against your beliefs
  • Statement from parent or caretaker relative explaining why you can't get immunizations
  • Statement from doctor that immunizations are not available
  • Stamped shot record

CalWORKs income requirements

All income must be reported to the County. Money includes all income, cash or in kind support (ie, free rent or utilities). Below are examples of monies received that must be reported:

  • Work, job or employment
  • Household bills paid by someone else
  • Self-employed business activities
  • Real or personal property(such as a house or bank accounts)
  • A contribution from persons, organizations or assistance agencies
  • Monies received from collecting recyclable trash
  • InKind Income (Free Rent or utilities where someone else is paying for you)

CalWORKs Property requirements

All members of your family can have no more than $2,000 in resources (cash, bank account, etc.) unless there is a family member over age 60. Then the limit increases to $3,000. If you live in your own home, it is exempt from the property limit.

Cars are eligible for certain exemptions depending on whether they are registered, or used to go to work or training. The county will explain how your cars are valued during your face-to-face interview.

TANF Emergency Assistance

Immediate Need is for CalWORKs applicants who appear to be eligible to CalWORKs benefits. For most counties adults without children who apply for General Relief are not eligible to immediate need. If you need financial help right away, then there are a number of ways that CalWORKs may help:

  • You may request an Immediate Need payment if you have a family emergency, such as no food, no essential clothing, emergency medical needs or no place to stay
  • You must request Immediate Need in person at the county offices or on MyBenefits CalWIN application
  • There are many rules regarding Immediate Need requests, you must be apparently eligible for CalWORKs in order to qualify for this special payment. The county must give you an answer about your Immediate Need request within 1 working day from the time you requested the Immediate Need special payment
  • You may receive up to $200 if you are found to have an Immediate Need
  • You may receive a referral to a community resource to help with your Immediate Need while the county determines your eligibility

How to stay enrolled/eligible for CalWORKs

To stay enrolled/eligible for CalWORKs, you need to continue to be eligible by:

  • Having an Eligible Child in the home
  • Being under the income limits for your family size
  • Being under the Resource limit
  • Participating with Welfare-to Work requirements (unless exempt)
  • Providing proof your child(ren) have satisfactory school attendance
  • Providing proof your child(ren) under six years old are up to date with their Immunizations when asked and
  • Being within the Time limits for adult
  • Completing and submitting all reporting requirements when you receive the reporting form in the mail by the due date
  • Completing the Annual renewal process when the county notifies you of your renewal appointment and the due date of your renewal
I was denied TANF benefits. What can I do?

State and local agencies are responsible for establishing the eligibility criteria and procedures that apply in their programs, not the Federal government. If you disagree with a decision regarding welfare benefits, you have the right to file an appeal. For more information about your state's appeals procedures, contact the CA TANF office.