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Public assistance and government aid in California.

An extensive number of public and government assistance programs as well as welfare focus on helping low income families in California. Social services can help individuals with a number of basic needs. Get information on CalfFesh food stamps, free healthcare from Med-Cal, money for child care costs, cash assistance from welfare and resources to pay other expenses. Find counties and public aid programs below.

Most of the resources have income and other conditions that need to be met by applicants, and funding is limited. The California Department of Social Services administers many of the public assistance programs including welfare. Individuals or families who need help should call or stop by their local social service agency to apply.

Welfare cash aid in California

Cash assistance is provided from the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program. This is basically the state’s welfare program. It provides both social services and public cash assistance to low income and working poor California families. Your local welfare or social service department runs the program for your region, and will process applications.

Low income families that apply for CalWORKs, and who are accepted and qualify for ongoing public assistance will be able to receive cash each and every month. The government aid can help pay for rent, food, and other necessary expenses and bills.

In addition, California Work Opportunity and Responsibility has an emergency component. If a family who is accepted into the program has little or no cash and needs immediate rent, housing, food, utilities, medical care, or clothing, then these individuals may be eligible to receive immediate short-term help for those bills and expenses in a crisis.

The total household income and other assets of the family are considered in calculating the amount of cash assistance that participants receive from the California Department of Social Services. In other words, the exact amount of a family's monthly cash assistance payment will take into consideration and will depend on a number of factors, including the number of people in the household and any special needs of the applicant.




Get help finding a job from the CalWORKs Welfare to Work Program. Individuals who are currently receiving public assistance can get help in both finding and preparing for employment, as working is proven to ensure people are better off financially.

After joining the CalWORKs program, all welfare to work participants will receive case management as well as an orientation to the program. Individuals will be provided an appraisal that will take into consideration their employment background and education. Initially what this means is that most participants will receive job search and finding services.

However, the amount of support is extensive. Additional employment-related services offered by the state of California will be based on an individual's work history and education. This can include:

  • Vocational and job training placements.
  • Unpaid work preparation and experience programs, like internships.
  • Access to community college programs as well as adult education.

Some additional public assistance funds may be provided too as part of welfare to work in California. For example, participants in the program may be eligible for help with paying for transportation, child care and also other work-related or job training-related expenses. Even after finding a job and getting off of cash assistance, some individuals may still be able to receive help with paying for medical bills and other child care expenses and costs.

CalWORKs Child Care Program can help people get off public assistance. If someone needs assistance in paying for child or day care costs, then the state of California may be able to help. Money is used so someone can attend job training, classes, or even work. More information on California free child care assistance programs.

Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) can offer cash for non-citizens who are ineligible for the federal government Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) solely due to their immigration status. Public aid is only offered for non-citizens who are aged, blind, and/or disabled.





Homeless assistance from CalWORKs - In very limited situations, the state can offer public assistance for paying rent, vouchers for motel rooms, or provide help with a security deposit. Other services include transitional housing and emergency, one time financial aid from the California “Immediate Need” program. Read more on CalWORKS homeless prevention cash aid.

Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payment Program (Kin-GAP) provides financial assistance with bills if you are taking care of a relative who is not your child. For example, maybe you are helping raise a grandchild, niece, or nephew. In order to qualify, several conditions need to be met including the child must have resided with the relative caregiver for at least twelve (12) consecutive months. In addition, Legal Guardianship must be established with the relative caregiver.

California Assistance Dog Special Allowance (ADSA) Program is available for those who use a signal, guide, or service dog to help them with needs related to their physical disabilities. Up to $50 is offered to qualified individuals to help pay the costs of health care, food, grooming, vet bills and other expenses for the dogs.

Veterans - The primary government assistance programs are administered by the California Department of Veterans Affairs. Services provided include job training, public health care, housing, educational resources and financial support. Veterans, their spouses and families may be eligible for assistance. Both state of California and federal government public assistance may be available. Click here California veteran assistance programs.

Food assistance from government aid

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is also the CalFresh Program or Food Stamps, can help low income families obtain free or low cost food. Vouchers and assistance will be added to a clients food budget, which will allow them to buy additional nutritious and healthy food, groceries and meals for their families. Most supermarkets and retailers will accept the voucher card that is used from the CalFresh Program.

California Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) is run by Department of Social Services but is paid for by federal government funds, and is offered for women, infants, and children. It is a food, health, and nutrition program. WIC can offer individuals cash and checks that are used for purchasing healthy supplemental foods and groceries from WIC-authorized vendors. Public assistance can also be used to pay for nutrition education, and help finding and paying for healthcare and other community services.

Over 1 million people receive help from the California WIC program every month, and all participants must meet total household income guidelines and also be new mothers, infants or children under age five, or pregnant women.





Free groceries are offered from the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which is offered in California but is paid for by the United States Department of Agriculture. A number of perishable items and government commodities and surplus food is offered for low income individuals and families. While the California Department of Social Services oversees the free emergency food program, clients will need to stop by local food banks or pantries in their town and county to apply and get help.

Free or low cost health insurance in California from Medi-Cal and Denti-Cal

Medi-Cal is California’s public health insurance program, and is based on the federal government funded Medicaid. It provides free or low cost health and medical care services for low-income individuals including persons with disabilities, families with children, foster care, pregnant women, low income people with specific diseases such as tuberculosis, breast cancer or HIV/AIDS, and senior citizens. It can help pay for a variety of needs and bills, including medications, checkups, and more.

California Denti-Cal is just another of the many benefits that are part of the Medi-Cal program. It is offered in partnership with clinics and the state of California. Some of the medical and dental services that are included in the Medi-Cal Dental Program's scope of benefits are either not billed or offered at reduced rates to the Medi-Cal dental beneficiary. Some clients may be responsible for paying any Share of Cost amount, so some charges and bills may be incurred. Public funds are used to help low income families, immigrants, and the poor, and they can also turn to free dental clinics in California for further assistance.

The California Access for Infants and Mothers (AIM) program is low-cost public health coverage for their newborns from middle-income families who don't have either private or government health insurance and whose total household income is too high to qualify for no-cost Medi-Cal.

In addition, please note that coverage from AIM is also available to those families who have private health insurance if their co-payment or deductible for maternity services is more than $500. Services offered as part of AIM may include hospital delivery, full health services, prenatal visits and help with paying medical and hospital bills to newborn children through two years of age.

Getting off to the correct and healthy start with a newborn is critical. If you don't have medical insurance to cover the expenses of your pregnancy and are not receiving free Medicare Part A and Part B or Medi-Cal, then the Access for Infants and Mothers (AIM) public assistance program may provide just the help you and your baby need. AIM can even assist those who have private health insurance plan with a copayment greater than $500 or maternity-only deductible.

Healthy Kids is another option for those children who are not qualified for full Medi-Cal or Healthy Families (see below). It is a low-cost health insurance care program available in many California counties for children who have no other options.

Healthy Families provides free or low cost vision coverage, health care, and dental needs to children who do not have insurance and who also do not qualify for free Medi-Cal. It is basically low cost public health insurance for children and teens.







How to get government and public assistance from in California

Select a county below to learn more about welfare, cash assistance, and other benefits. Or call the California Department of Social Services at 916-651-8848 for general information on these public and government assistance programs and services.

Alameda County

Contra Costa

Fresno County

Kern County

Los Angeles County

Riverside County


San Bernardino

San Diego County

San Francisco County

San Joaquin County

Santa Clara County

Stanislaus County

Ventura County

By Jon McNamara

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