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Washington public assistance and government aid.

Public assistance is available in Washington to help low income families and those who need help with paying for basic needs or living expenses. Find food stamp applications, cash assistance, free health care from Medicaid and other government aid.

In addition, case managers and social workers will work with low income individuals to help them become self-sufficient. This can include helping them find jobs, develop skills, and improve their income. Get information on various Washington State benefits, financial aid as well as public assistance programs below, including by city and county.

The Washington food stamp program is known as Basic Food and is offered by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. This resource can help low income people and families across the region access monthly benefits to buy food, groceries, and meals for their children. Those individuals who participate in the public SNAP food stamps program can receive other benefits as well such as qualifying for low cost phone service through LifeLine and LinkUp.

Or work with a social worker to get help locating a job as part of Basic Food / SNAP. Children can also enroll in free school meals for school-aged children. Social workers can also help people sign up for meals from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits program, which is referenced immediately below.

Women Infants & Children (WIC) is a nutrition program available in Washington that helps new mothers, pregnant women, babies and young children eat well. Families can also learn about nutrition and get tips on staying healthy. WIC can provide Washington families with nutritious foods, health and nutrition education and counseling. Case managers can also work with individuals and provide assistance with accessing health care. All of these services and resources are provided to low-income women, infants, and children through the government funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, otherwise known as WIC.

Food banks and assistance programs – Partnerships have been created between the Washington State Department of Agriculture and almost 500 food pantries and meal programs across the state. The food pantries can offer free food as well as personal care products and baby items such as diapers and formula.

The state of Washington fully participates in the National School Breakfast Program as well as the School Lunch Program. Both of these resources promote the health and well-being of school aged children of all ages by providing nutritious meals to children in both private and public schools. Children can sign up for this public assistance program.




Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and additional Support Services can provide temporary cash assistance to the working poor and low income. In addition, health care and medical bill help can be offered for families in need. Most families that receive public assistance from TANF also participate in the WorkFirst Program, which helps participants both find and retain jobs. Also get help in training for jobs.

The Washington State Family Assistance (SFA) program is an option for persons who are ineligible for cash assistance from TANF solely because of eligibility changes due to the Welfare Reform Act.

Low income families who are caring for a relative's child, or people who are considered legal guardians or who are acting in the place of a parent are also able to apply for TANF benefits on behalf of these children. The public government funded program that provides for this is the Non-Needy Relative, Legal Guardian Program, as well as In Loco Parentis.

Diversion Cash Assistance in Washington is also offered for persons who are eligible for the TANF program. Families who chose this financial assistance program can get help with paying for basic living expenses when a family needs short term help paying bills and who meet other program requirements and guidelines.

Public Health Care Assistance and Medicaid – Programs are funded by the federal government and state of Washington. Resources can pay for medical care and bills for those who can't afford it. Your local DSHS Community Service Office (CSO) can provide you with details about these various medical bill assistance services and how to apply for them. Or you can dial the Medical Assistance Customer Service Center at 1-800-562-3022.

Washington Apple Health for Kids – Offers children with medical assistance programs and public health care and insurance.

Assistance in child care expenses can be received from the Child Care Subsidy Programs (CCSP). Get help in paying for child care costs from either Seasonal Child Care or Working Connections Child Care. The Seasonal Child Care program in Washington can pay for and provide child care subsidies to eligible seasonally employed agricultural families who live in designated Washington counties and are not receiving cash assistance, public aid or TANF benefits.





The second option known as the Working Connections Child Care program pays for child care subsidies to qualified low income households with parents who are working, whose children meet citizenship requirements, and who are participating in a DSHS approved work activity. Other resources are available as well. Read more on free daycare in Washington.

Dental care and services – The state can pay for dental and dental-related services using public funds. Assistance is offered when services are within the scope of the eligible clients medical care program and meet other conditions. In addition, the dental services need to be medically necessary, consistent with a diagnosis of dental disease or condition, and within standard care. The dental bills paid for by public programs in Washington need to be reasonable in amount and duration of service, care, or treatment. Assistance is subject to the limitations and listings of non-covered procedures.

DSHS Emergency Programs – For people in a crisis, public resources can be prioritized by Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. If you need emergency financial help, state of WA benefits or support with any of the following, you can get immediate attention from a social worker.

  • Housing concerns, including eviction, homelessness and delinquent rent.
  • Lack of food.
  • Utility shut off or run out of heating fuel.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Medical emergency, including pregnancy.
  • Child care expenses or daycare needed due to work or job training.

Emergency Medical Programs - If you have a health or medical emergency, a case worker from the state may have information on a medical bill assistance program to help. A financial or social worker can explain more about the eligibility requirements of the medical programs that are in place and provided by DSHS.

Disabled, Aged, Blind Health Care – Free or low cost medical coverage for lower income aged, blind or disabled persons.

DSHS Food Assistance – If you are out of food, and have little or no money, then crisis programs can help. Your local Community Services Office in Washington can provide emergency food if you run out. Public aid and groceries can even be offered to free up your money for paying rent or utilities.

Grants and Cash Assistance – A one-time cash payment can be made to the low income and working poor to help them obtain or keep safe housing. Public cash assistance can even be offered for utilities. The program is known as the state of Washington Additional Requirements for Emergent Needs (AREN) or the Diversion Program. Qualified families need to meet eligibility requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Refugee Cash Assistance, or State Family Assistance.

An emergency that can be paid for by these public funds includes the following. An applicant needs to have an emergency housing issue such as faced with eviction, need help with utilities or other need such as no food. The applicant also needs to have a good reason that you had insufficient funds to pay your bills, housing or utility costs, as the program is not charity care. A WorkFirst case manager can tell you more about these public assistance programs and services.





Medicare Savings Programs – Several financial assistance programs can help Medicare recipients pay for all or part of their health care costs and/or Medicare premiums.

Disability Lifeline (DL) – A state of Washington funded program that provides medical benefits and cash for low income persons who were physically unemployable or mentally incapacitated.

Washington Health Insurance – Receive low cost or free health care coverage. Care is offered at a reduced rate for low income families and individuals who are Washington residents and who qualify based on income.

Healthcare for Workers with Disabilities (HWD) Program – Another medical program that allows people with disabilities who are working to purchase affordable yet high quality public medical coverage by paying a monthly premium that is set based on their income, so it is affordable.

Alien Emergency Medical Program - Emergency medical assistance program for persons who do not meet the citizenship requirements for other DSHS medical programs.

Pregnancy Medical Program – Public health care program for pregnant women and their children.

Additional government assistance and benefits from counties in Washington

All of these and other financial and public assistance programs are administered by Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). If you want to apply for help, or to get more information, please call 1-800-737-0617 to speak to a representative. Or select your county below.

King County

Pierce County

Snohomish County

Spokane County


By Jon McNamara

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