Skip to Content

CalWORKs: 5 Things You Need to Know

CalWORKs: 5 Things You Need to Know

CalWORKs may be able to help you if you’re a California resident with children who is in need of financial aid and services! If you checked out our article on how to get free child care but wanted more of an explanation, don’t worry. This article will assist you by providing answers to everything you need to know about CalWORKs, including what it is, what services it provides, how to apply, and more!


What is CalWORKs?

CalWORKs is a program for California families with a child / children in the home. CalWORKs provides financial aid and services to families based upon their needs and qualifications.

If you are low on cash and need food, utilities, housing, clothes, or medical care, you may qualify to get short-term help immediately from CalWORKs. If you are eligible, you can also apply for ongoing assistance, which means you will receive money each month to help you pay for necessary expenses.


The CalWORKs program is available in all 58 counties.

What programs and services does CalWORKs have?

CalWORKs can provide short-term cash assistance for necessities like food, housing / rent, clothing, medical care, and utilities payments.


Long-term ongoing assistance is also an option that will provide money each month to help pay for necessities.

Cal-Learn is a program created under CalWORKs for pregnant and parenting teens. It encourages pregnant and parenting teens to graduate from high school or achieve an equivalent, become independent, and form healthy and happy families.

If you are a pregnant and/or parenting teen who is receiving CalWORKs benefits, you must participate in Cal-Learn if:

  • You are under the age of 19
  • You live in the same household as your child
  • You have not graduated from high school or its equivalent
  • Your child is not in foster care

There are 3 benefits Cal-Learn provides:

  • Case management that helps teen parents with education, health, and social services.
  • Child care, transportation, and educational expenses to help the pregnant or parenting teen attend school.
  • Bonuses and sanctions for school attendance and grade. Up to four $100 bonuses can be earned based on report card results. There is a one-time $500 bonus for graduating or earning an equivalent to a high school diploma. If satisfactory grades are not maintained and/or timely report cards are not submitted, there may be financial penalties.

If you are a current or former CalWORKs recipient who is employed or participating in county approved Welfare-to-Work activities, you can receive help with paying for child care with a provider of your choice. Pregnant and parenting teens who are in the Cal-Learn program are also eligible to receive CalWORKs child care assistance.

CalWORKs child care is available for children through the age of 12. Exceptional needs and severely disabled children are eligible for child care assistance up to age 21.

By Unsplash user Vivek Kumar. A smiling woman holds her smiling child in her arms after they get approved for CalWORKs.
By Unsplash user Vivek Kumar.

Do I qualify for CalWORKs?

There are a lot of different factors that will decide whether you qualify for CalWORKs and what programs and services you will be eligible for. Some of these factors include:


  • Your citizenship status
  • Your age
  • Your household size and income
  • Your available resources
  • Your assets
  • If the child / children in your home have little parental support or care because of the disability, death, or absence of either parent
  • If both parents are in the home but the one who brings in most income is unemployed
  • Needy caretaker relative with a foster child / children

How do I apply for CalWORKs?

There are two ways you can apply for CalWORKs programs and services.

The first way is by contacting the social services agency in your local county. You can find your local agency’s contact information by following the instructions on this website.

The second way is through the BenefitsCal website. This website lets you apply to CalWORKs, CalFresh, and Medi-Cal. It also has additional information on the types of services those three programs provide.

You should expect the application process to take about 30 to 60 minutes. Be sure to gather all necessary documents before you start the process so it’s faster and easier. If you create an account through BenefitsCal, you can save your application, leave halfway through, and return to finish it later.

Your county should contact you to set up an interview after you submit. You may be able to choose between an in person interview or a phone interview.

What do I need in order to apply for CalWORKs?

It’s helpful to get necessary documents before you start the application process so you can finish the form quickly and easily. Here are some documents that may be helpful to have nearby when you apply:


Birth / Citizenship

  • Birth certificate
  • U.S. passport
  • Baptismal certificate with the date and place of birth stated
  • Statement of witness to birth


  • Driver’s license
  • Identification card
  • Photo ID (school, DMV, etc.)
  • U.S. passport
  • USCIS documents

Immigration Status (non-citizens only)

  • Immigration papers, forms, and cards. Be sure to provide a copy of both sides.
  • Certificate of naturalization
  • Other proof from immigration (USCIS) such as work authorization, letter of decision or court order, etc.

Proof that you are a California resident

  • Rental agreement
  • Bill or other documents with name and address
  • Driver’s license
  • Identification card
  • Utility bill
  • Eviction notice

Money You Earn

  • Recent paycheck stubs
  • Letter from employer
  • Copy of child support check or payment stub
  • Letter of award of benefits (such as Social Security, Veterans, unemployment, disability, etc.)
  • Tax forms for self-employment (IRS schedule C, etc.)
  • Receipts for self-employment work expenses
  • Statements for school grants, loans, and financial aid statements
  • Sponsor statement form


  • Court papers (divorce, guardianship, etc.)
  • Marriage certificate
  • Domestic partner certificate
  • Birth certificate

Housing and Utility Costs

  • Rental agreement
  • Rent receipts
  • Mortgage bill
  • Utility bill
  • Property tax statement
  • Home or renter’s insurance bills
  • Hotel/motel receipt
  • Cancelled checks or copies
  • Statement of housing arrangement


  • Vehicle registration
  • Recent bank statements, including savings and checking accounts
  • Recent mortgage bills
  • Settlements (lawsuits, insurance claims)
  • Sponsor statement form
  • Recent retirement account statements
  • Life insurance policy, stocks, bonds, IRAs
  • Property deed
  • Statement of joint ownership
  • Burial plots / crypts

Other Expenses

  • Child / dependent care receipts / Statement for child / dependent care provider
  • Receipts for school expenses
  • Cancelled check
  • Receipt of child / spousal support payments

Medi-Cal Expenses and Verification

  • Medi-Cal bills or receipts (including transportation)
  • Health or dental insurance policies or premiums
  • Proof of pregnancy from doctor or clinic with expected due date
  • Statement from a doctor or disability funding by an agency (SSA, SDI, VA, etc.)
  • Pharmacy bill

Immunization Records

  • Stamped shot record
  • Statement from doctor that shots are not available
  • Statement from guardian explaining why shots can’t be had
  • Statement that shots are against your beliefs

How else can Low Income Relief help me?

Thanks for asking! If you’re interested in what other kind of FREE help you can find in California, check out another article of ours!

We always love to help you save money and get free stuff!


As a third-year English major with years of researching and writing experience, Chloe uses her experience and her passion for helping others to help you get the financial aid you deserve.