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Colorado Works: Your Comprehensive Guide

Colorado Works: Your Comprehensive Guide

If you are in need of financial assistance to meet the basic needs of your family, Colorado Works might be able to help. The program is designed to help families in Colorado become self-sufficient over time. If you think this program might be right for you, read on for more information in Low Income Relief’s comprehensive guide. 

What is Colorado Works?

Colorado Works is a type of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) support available in the state of Colorado. TANF is what the program is called at the federal level (for the whole country). Colorado Works is what the state of Colorado has called its state TANF program. When you hear information about TANF, you can assume it applies to Colorado’s program as well.

Colorado Works is designed to help low-income families become independent from government financial support by offering temporary cash assistance. In addition to cash assistance, it can help families access services like counseling, job training, transportation, and childcare. While all Colorado counties offer cash assistance, other services will vary depending on which county you live in. 

The purpose of Colorado Works is to help families in need reach the point where they can live independently of government assistance. This goal is achieved by helping them find work that will support themselves and their families. You can receive Colorado Works and/or TANF assistance for up to 60 months over the course of your lifetime, not including any Colorado Works and/or TANF assistance you received as a child under the age of 18. 

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Who is eligible for Colorado Works (and who is not)?

In general, you are eligible for TANF programs (remember, TANF is the federal program that funds state programs like Colorado Works) if you are unemployed or “underemployed”. In other words, you should either not be working, or only working part-time for a very low income. However, if you are unemployed, you will be required to begin job training or paid work once you enroll in the program. 

So, what is meant by “very low income”? Well, the only way to know whether you qualify is to apply. However, an example of the income standard set by the state of Colorado is that a one parent household with two children, making up to $421/month in income, would qualify for assistance. Car ownership does not affect eligibility for Colorado Works. More details about the “standard of need” for Colorado Works assistance is available in the Colorado Works Handbook

Colorado Works recipients must either be pregnant or have at least one child under the age of 18. You may also be eligible if you are under the age of 18 and leading a household on your own. If you are a non-custodial parent, you may receive some services, but not cash assistance. Households without children under the age of 18 are not eligible for Colorado Works. Additionally, you must be a resident of the state of Colorado, and either a citizen or a legal immigrant of the United States. 

There are some exceptions to the rules about who is eligible. You would not be eligible for assistance through Colorado Works if:

  • You have been convicted of a felony and are on the run from police.
  • You are violating your parole or your probation.
  • You are participating in a strike.
  • You were convicted of a drug related felony after July 1, 1997. 
  • You ever lied about your state of residency to collect benefits in more than one state at a time. 
  • You are not paying child support that is owed. 
  • You are unable or unwilling to provide proof of legal immigration status or your social security number. 

Still not sure if you’re eligible? The best way to find out is to apply, or contact your local county human services office

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What will I receive from Colorado Works?

The main thing that you will receive from Colorado Works is cash assistance. The amount of cash assistance you will receive is based on a number of factors, including the number of children and eligible caretakers in your home. As an example, a single parent household with two children might receive about $462 in cash assistance, according to the Colorado Works Handbook. 

Your caseworker can also help connect you with other services you are eligible for, such as counseling, transportation assistance, childcare, and job training. Further, you are automatically eligible for Medicaid if you are eligible for Colorado Works (although they are two separate programs). 

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How do I apply for Colorado Works?

You can apply for Colorado Works assistance online. You can also download, print and fill out the application by hand and return it by mail, fax or in person to your local county human services office.

You will likely need to provide some or all of the following pieces of documentation to your caseworker in order to apply: 

  • Proof of identity: driver’s license, ID card, birth certificate, etc.
  • Proof of lawful presence (proof that you are a legal immigrant): any document verifying lawful presence in the U.S., such as a birth certificate, green card, or I-551 Legal Permanent Resident Card. 
  • Proof of residency: Rental agreement or mortgage, utility bills, etc. 
  • Social Security Number 
  • Proof of all monthly income, including earned income from a job, veterans’ benefits, unemployment benefits, child support, and any other income. 
  • Proof of school enrollment for children under 18. 
  • Proof of pregnancy if you are pregnant. 

Other documents might be needed as well, and your caseworker will help you to identify them. 

For more information about TANF, the program that funds Colorado Works, check out Low Income Relief’s guide to TANF

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Catherine Hall, LMSW is a therapist at a small group practice in New York City. She earned her master of social work degree at New York University.