How to apply for welfare in California

In the United States, there is a large number of social programs financed by the government to provide economic and social assistance to individuals and families that require it.

These benefits range from financial aid for people with disabilities to rental access programs, and many others. However, multiple options and regulations that vary from state to state.

If you live (or plan to live) in California, you must know that is one of the states in which welfare is more generous; so, in this article, you will find information relevant about the requirements and process to apply.

Welfare in California

In California, there are different programs managed by the welfare departments from each of the 58 counties in the state, such as Medi-Cal, County Medical Services Program (CMSP), CalFresh (formerly known as Food Stamps), and California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs).

Families that apply to these programs receive money or other types of funds every month that helps them pay for different expenses, such as:

  • Food.
  • Medical care.
  • Clothing.
  • Utilities.
  • Housing.
  • And others.

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Eligibility criteria


You are eligible for Medi-Cal if you match at least one of these profiles:

  • Person under 21, or over 65 years old.
  • Pregnant woman.
  • Blind person or disabled.
  • Parent or caretakers of a child who meets the age eligibility.
  • Benefited from an intermediate care home or a skilled nursing facility.
  • Refugee status.
  • Patient of a delicate disease and whose treatment is expensive to pay.

On the other hand, regarding financial requirements, you can apply even if you already get benefits from CalFresh, Refugee Assitance, SSI/SSP, CalWORKS, or Adoption Assitance Program.

medi-cal qualify1

County Medical Services Program (CMSP)

First, you must apply for Medi-Cal, if you result ineligible, then you can apply to CMSP. Consequently, the requirements are the same we mentioned above.

This program provides medical and nutrition services in 35 counties: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Imperial, Inyo, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Napa, Nevada, Plumas, San Benito, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba.

If you live in Solano, Sonoma, or Yolo counties, you can apply online here. On the other hand, if you live in any other county, you may start the application process through here.


This program provides financial help to families with limited resources; if accepted, you will receive monthly electronic funds that can be used in most farmer’s markets or food stores.

Individual requirements

  • You must be part of a household (a group of people who regularly buy and eat food together).
  • Other accepted profiles: disabled people, seniors, students.

Financial requirements

cal-fresh income limit


Individual requirements

The father or head of the family must:

  • Live in California.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or meet residency requirements.
  • Have a child under 18 years old (or 19 if the child graduates from high school before that age).
  • Not be a fugitive or a convicted drug offender.

Children under dependency must:

  • Have all vaccinations in case of being less than 6 years old.
  • Attend school regularly if they are less than 16 years old.
  • Have one of their parents unable to take care of them due to unemployment, disability, death, or imprisonment.

Exception: CalWORKs considers the family group as an “Assistance Unit” (AU); this includes “people who live in the same house and are related to each other”. Therefore, foster children, non-citizens, SSI recipients, criminals, or fugitives are not eligible.

Financial requirements

In general, your family’s resources and income must be below a certain limit. For your convenience, here are two links with helpful information about this subject:

Application process

It is a relatively simple process to get welfare in California.

  • Go to this website:, select your county, and then find the type of program in which you want to apply.

california online benefits application

Although the process may vary depending on the program, you will likely have to complete an eligibility form; after submitting it, if you meet the requirements, a county agent will contact you to schedule an appointment where you will be asked to fill out other forms and present some documents.

In addition, we recommend you to collect birth certificates, identity documents, bank statements, medical records, and any other thing to support your case.

If you are accepted, the welfare department will send you an explanatory letter that will contain the monthly amount of cash that you will receive, along with the program’s regulations.