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What is General Assistance

What is General Assistance

It is likely that you have heard of cash assistance programs which help people with low incomes, like TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and SSI (Supplemental Security Income). However, you might be wondering, “what is General Assistance?” General Assistance is one of the only programs that is available to adults without children, adults who are not seniors, and adults who do not have disabilities. 

Worth highlighting is the fact that General Assistance is only available in about half of the states in the U.S. Further, in those states where it is available, it is typically quite limited, and is often only available to those who meet strict eligibility requirements. 

This article outlines the following: what is General Assistance, where it is available, and what are the eligibility requirements. 

What is General Assistance?

General Assistance is called a “safety net of last resort” by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research and policy institute. In other words, General Assistance is a program for people who do not qualify for other kinds of cash assistance like TANF or SSI, or for whom those benefits are not adequate. Most people who do not have children do not qualify for TANF, and people who do not have a disability do not qualify for SSI. 

For people who do not have children and do not have a disability, it can be very difficult to obtain cash assistance. However, General Assistance can fill the gap for adults without children who do not have a disability in the few states where such adults qualify. 

It is important to note that General Assistance is not a federal program, meaning that there is not any funding from the federal government that makes this program possible. General Assistance is funded solely by states and localities. In fact, there is no federal program that offers cash assistance to childless adults without disabilities. 

Further, General Assistance is not available everywhere. It is only available in about half of the states in the United States, and the eligibility requirements vary significantly by state. Read on to find out whether General Assistance is available where you live and whether you might qualify. 

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What is General Assistance like in each state?

As mentioned earlier in the article, General Assistance is not available everywhere. Below, we have outlined where General Assistance is and is not available. Check your state in the list below to find out if General Assistance is available where you live, and which eligibility categories the program is available to. 

First, let’s define a few terms that are often used when talking about General Assistance. We will define what it means to be “disabled”, “unemployable”, and “employable”. 

First, in many places General Assistance is available to people with disabilities. While each location will have a different standard of what it means to be disabled, it typically means that a person is incapacitated for a certain duration of time due to a health condition or injury. Applications for General Assistance based on the eligibility requirement of disability usually require medical documentation. 

Secondly, in discussion of General Assistance, it is common to hear the term “unemployable” as one of the eligibility categories. To be unemployable means that one is over age 55, has a learning disability or low literacy, or needs to care for a young child or a family member with a disability.

Finally, some states allow people deemed “employable” to receive some General Assistance, although the amount is sometimes lower for people who are employable than for those who fall into other eligibility categories. There are only a few states where those deemed “employable” are eligible for General Assistance. 

“Employable” typically means that an applicant does not have medical documentation of a disability. Sometimes people fall into the “employable” eligibility category when they are in effect disabled, but have not yet been able to demonstrate that their disability will last for long enough to qualify for assistance.  

Alabama

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Alabama? No.

Alaska

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Alaska? Yes
  • Who is Alaska’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “employable”. 

More information on Alaska’s General Assistance program is available from Low Income Relief. Information can also be found on Alaska’s Division of Public Assistance website. 

Arizona

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Arizona? No.

Arkansas

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Arkansas? No.

California

  • Is there a General Assistance program in California? Yes. 
  • Who is California’s General Assistance Program Available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “employable”. 

Visit California’s Department of Social Services website for more information on their General Assistance program. 

Colorado

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Colorado? Yes.
  • Who is Colorado’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability. 

Whereas many other states administer General Assistance centrally, Colorado’s General Assistance is administered by each individual county. For information on your county’s General Assistance program, Google search “the name of your county + General Assistance”. For example, the search term “Jefferson County General Assistance” provides a search result for the Jefferson County Department of Human Services

Connecticut

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Connecticut? Yes.
  • Who is Connecticut’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability. 

Visit Connecticut’s State website for more information on their General Assistance program, which is called SAGA (State Administered General Assistance). 

Delaware

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Delaware? Yes.
  • Who is Delaware’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “unemployable”. 

Visit Delaware’s official State website for more information on their General Assistance program. 

Florida

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Florida? No. 

Georgia

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Georgia? No.

Hawaii

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Hawaii? Yes. 
  • Who is Hawaii’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability. 

Visit Hawaii’s Department of Human Services website for more information on their General Assistance program. 

Idaho

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Idaho? No.

Illinois

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Illinois? No.

Indiana

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Indiana? No. 

Iowa

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Iowa? Yes.
  • Who is Iowa’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “employable”. 

Whereas many other states administer General Assistance centrally, Iowa’s General Assistance is administered by each individual county. For information on your county’s General Assistance program, Google search “the name of your county + General Assistance”. For example, the search term “Polk County General Assistance” provides a search result for the Polk County Department of Community, Family, and Youth Services

Kansas

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Kansas? No.

Kentucky

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Kentucky? No.

Louisiana

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Louisiana? No. 

Maine

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Maine? Yes. 
  • Who is Maine’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “employable”. 

Visit Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services website for more information on their General Assistance program. 

Maryland

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Maryland? Yes.
  • Who is Maryland’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability. 

Visit Maine’s Department of Human Services website for more information about their General Assistance program. Please note that in Maryland, the program is called Temporary Disability Assistance. 

Massachusetts 

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Massachusetts? Yes. 
  • Who is Massachusetts’ General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “unemployable”. 

Visit the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance website for more information about their General Assistance program. 

Michigan

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Michigan? Yes. 
  • Who is Michigan’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “unemployable”.  

Visit Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services website for more information about their General Assistance program.

Minnesota

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Minnesota? Yes. 
  • Who is Minnesota’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “unemployable”.  

Visit Minnesota’s Department of Human Services website for more information about their General Assistance program. 

Mississippi

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Mississippi? No.

Missouri

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Missouri? No.

Montana

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Montana? No.

Nebraska

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Nebraska? Yes. 
  • Who is Nebraska’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “employable”. 

Whereas many other states administer General Assistance centrally, Nebraska’s General Assistance is administered by each individual county. For information on your county’s General Assistance program, Google search “the name of your county + General Assistance”. For example, the search term “Douglas County General Assistance” provides a search result for Douglas County Department of General Assistance

Nevada 

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Nevada? Yes. 
  • Who is Nevada’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “employable”. 

For more information about General Assistance in Nevada, contact your county’s social services website. For example, Elko County’s information on General Assistance is available here

New Hampshire

  • Is there a General Assistance program in New Hampshire? Yes. 
  • Who is New Hampshire’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “employable”.

For more information about General Assistance in New Hampshire, contact your town or city hall.

New Jersey

  • Is there a General Assistance program in New Jersey? Yes. 
  • Who is New Jersey’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “employable”.

Visit New Jersey’s Department of Human Services website for more information about their General Assistance program.

New Mexico

  • Is there a General Assistance program in New Mexico? Yes. 
  • Who is New Mexico’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “unemployable”. 

Visit New Mexico’s Human Services Department website for more information about their General Assistance program. 

New York

  • Is there a General Assistance program in New York? Yes. 
  • Who is New York’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability, individuals deemed “unemployable”, and individuals deemed “employable”. 

Visit New York State’s website for more information about their General Assistance program. In New York, it is called Safety Net Assistance.  

North Carolina

  • Is there a General Assistance program in North Carolina? No. 

North Dakota

  • Is there a General Assistance program in North Dakota? No. 

Ohio 

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Ohio? No. 

Oklahoma

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Oklahoma? No. 

Oregon

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Oregon? No. 

Pennsylvania

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Pennsylvania? Yes. 
  • Who is Pennsylvania’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “unemployable”. 

Visit Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services website for more information on their General Assistance program. 

Rhode Island

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Rhode Island? Yes.
  • Who is Rhode Island’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability. 

Visit Rhode Island’s Department of Human Services website for more information on their General Assistance program. 

South Carolina

  • Is there a General Assistance program in South Carolina? No. 

South Dakota

  • Is there a General Assistance program in South Dakota? Yes.
  • Who is South Dakota’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “employable”. 

While some sources indicate that South Dakota has a General Assistance program, information is limited. Contact South Dakota’s Department of Human Services for information. 

Tennessee

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Tennessee? No.

Texas

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Texas? No. 

Utah

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Utah? Yes. 
  • Who is Utah’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability.

Visit Utah’s Department of Workforce Services website for more information about their General Assistance program. 

Vermont

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Vermont? Yes.
  • Who is Vermont’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability and individuals deemed “unemployable”. 

Visit Vermont’s Agency of Human Services website for more information on their General Assistance program. 

Virginia

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Virginia? No. 

Washington

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Washington? Yes.
  • Who is Washington’s General Assistance program available to? Individuals with a disability. 

Visit the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services website for more information. 

West Virginia

  • Is there a General Assistance program in West Virginia? No. 

Wisconsin

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Wisconsin? No. 

Wyoming

  • Is there a General Assistance program in Wyoming? No. 
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How much does General Assistance pay?

Monthly payments from General Assistance programs vary widely. Some payments are as little as approximately $40 per month, based on income and availability of funds. Others will receive up to $300 per month or more, depending on the same factors. 

While some states do not offer General Assistance programs, it is always worth contacting your Department of Human Services to find out what programs are available to you. We hope this information has been valuable to those who need to know: what is general assistance!

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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.

Sarah McHaley

Sunday 17th of July 2022

I'm looking for assistance to obtain a free vehicle or low income auto repair and free internet in Stillwater Oklahoma. I receive snap, medicaid, and trying to get on disability. I have a child and care for my elderly mother in law so I can't work

Catherine Marucci

Sunday 17th of July 2022

Hi Sarah. These articles may help: https://lowincomerelief.com/free-car-repair-for-low-income-families/ https://lowincomerelief.com/how-to-get-free-internet-almost/ https://lowincomerelief.com/free-cars/