Student Services

CalWORKs: Eligibility

California’s public cash assistance program is called the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids Program (CalWORKs).

CalWORKs applicants must meet state and federal regulation requirements to qualify for cash assistance. Needy caretaker relatives may also be eligible for benefits. Verification of the relation to the needy child will be required.

Non-citizens are subject to specific regulation requirements and may wish to inquire about potential eligibility to CalWORKs.

If a family provides all the necessary facts, eligibility should be determined within 45 days from the date of application.

Persons with drug related felony convictions since January 1, 1998 are not eligible for CalWORKs.

Eligibility Factors


The first component of cash aid eligibility is determining deprivation. Deprivation to a needy child is defined as one or more of the following:

  • Continued absence of either or both parents.
  • Disability of either or both parents.
  • Death of either or both parents.

Unemployment of the Principal Earner, when both parents are in the home. The Principal Earner is the parent that has had the most earnings in the last 24-month period.

Once deprivation has been established, eligibility for CalWORKs is based upon additional criteria. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Property
  • Income
  • Residency in California
  • Age of the children

An applicant or participant must maintain residency in the state of California to be eligible to CalWORKs.

Age Requirements

Needy children from birth to age 18 may have potential eligibility to CalWORKs.

One exception to this rule is as follows:

  • An 18-year-old that will graduate from high school prior to his/her 19th birthday will remain eligible through the month of graduation. Verification of graduation date is required.


Families receiving CalWORKs are required to submit documentation that all children have received age appropriate immunizations.

School Attendance

School verification is required to ensure that all school age children attend school regularly. If they do not, the family’s cash assistance will be reduced.

Welfare-to-Work Requirements

All adult, able-bodied, CalWORKs participants are required to work and/or participate in welfare-to-work activities. Participants who choose not to comply with welfare-to-work requirements are not eligible for assistance.


CalWORKs offers a diversion program. The purpose of diversion is to assist with one-time specific, employment-related need. If a family were eligible, they would receive this payment as an alternative to ongoing monthly cash assistance.


All information that is provided by applicants or participants is computer matched with tax records, employment history, the Social Security Administration and any other pertinent agencies’ records. Any discrepancies discovered in these facts will be investigated. County workers may do home visits at any time to verify reported information, including seeing each family member. Benefits may be denied or stopped if the family does not cooperate with county, state and federal personnel. Participants convicted of welfare fraud may be barred for life from receiving CalWORKs.