How to Apply for Cash Assistance in California


The California CalWORKs application process has a number of different available methods for filing a claim. You may apply for CalWORKs in person by calling your local county welfare office and scheduling a convenient appointment to meet with a CalWORKs benefits advisor who will help you fill in your application form. You may also mail an application for CalWORKs to your local county welfare office. Residents who have questions about how to apply for cash assistance in California can call the local office and submit application details over the phone. However, the most convenient way to apply for CalWORKs cash assistance is by completing the online form. Regardless of the method in which you apply for cash assistance in California, you will need to furnish the same information to establish eligibility for CalWORKs. Continue reading for details about how to apply for cash assistance in California.

How long does the California CalWORKs application process take?

Once you have submitted your application for CalWORKs to your local California county office, an official will review the furnished information to see if you meet the eligibility requirements for the cash assistance program. As part of the CalWORKs application process, someone from the office will schedule an appointment for an interview if you qualify. If you apply for CalWORKs directly at your local California county office, it typically takes up to seven days for officials to make an appointment for your interview. However, the CalWORKs application process may take up to a total of 45 days for the state to approve or deny your application.

If you submitted an application for CalWORKs but you are experiencing an emergency and you need money sooner, you may be eligible to get assistance quicker. You can apply for an expedited CalWORKs application process if you will need to meet certain criteria. To be eligible for an expedited CalWORKs application you must need to pay for your family’s basic needs and have less than the maximum limit allowing you to qualify for CalWORKs. In this case, the county must process your application within 15 days. The state may also speed up the CalWORKs application process if you and your family are facing eviction because you do not have the means to pay your rent. In this case, your application should be processed within three days.

When you apply for CalWORKs you can also simultaneously apply for Medi-Cal and CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps). If you need assistance for a special circumstance for which you may receive a single payment without you needing to participate in the CalWORKs program, you may be eligible for emergency assistance. If you subsequently end up participating in CalWORKs, this payment will count as your first CalWORKs benefit payment. If you are not eligible for CalWORKs, you may apply for General Assistance/General Relief.

Find out about other financial assistance programs available in California by reviewing our comprehensive guide.

What You Need to Take to Your California Cash Assistance Appointment

As part of the California cash assistance application process, you may be required to complete additional paperwork or submit documents that establish eligibility before or during your interview. In addition to your application for CalWORKs, you will need to take the following documents with you to your CalWORKs appointment:

  • Proof of identification such as a valid drivers’ license or your state-issued ID card
  • Social Security Numbers and birth certificates for all members of the household applying for cash assistance
  • Proof of household income through paystubs
  • Proof of residence in the county where you are applying
  • Proof of legal U.S. residency status, for noncitizens

Your CA application for CalWORKs also requires you to provide any other legal documents that may pertain to your claim. To complete your CalWORKs application process, you will also need to provide letters from your health care provider if any member of your household is pregnant, disabled or has special medical or dietary needs. If your application for CalWORKs includes any family members who are six years of age or younger, you will also need to provide proof of their immunizations and school attendance records.

Discover what is considered income when applying for benefits in California by reviewing the details in our in-depth guide.

What Kind of Assistance Does the Department of Social Services Offer?

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) provides various types of assistance benefits to residents of the state. Through the CDSS, individuals and families can obtain temporary cash assistance, food assistance and more. Furthermore, applicants who are eligible for the benefits of one CDSS program will often qualify for the assistance benefits of another. Find out everything you need to know about the services and benefits provided by the Department of Social Services by downloading our helpful CDSS guide.

Who Can Benefit From California’s Department of Social Services?

To receive benefits from the CDSS, you and your family will need to meet certain eligibility criteria. The criteria used to determine an applicant’s eligibility typically include income, age, resources and citizenship, among other factors. Find out if you qualify for California DSS assistance benefits here.