The program most commonly referred to as "welfare" is in reality named Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Formerly called Aid to Families With Dependent Children, it received a new name in 1997, along with many new rules. The program is funded by federal block grants, and each state is mostly allowed to design its own TANF system, as long as the system agrees with federal guidelines and its goals. California's TANF program is California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids. Applicants need to meet certain income regulations and other criteria set forth by the state Department of Social Services.
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Only certain people qualify for CalWORKS. First, they must be residents of the state of California. They must also be citizens of the United States. Non-citizens may be eligible if they are in the country legally and have been in the U.S. for at least five years. CalWORKS participants must also be needy families with minor dependent children living at home. One or both of the parents must be absent or disabled, or, if both parents are at home, the principal wage earner must be unemployed. Caretaker relatives of foster children also qualify.
CalWORKS families cannot hold more than a certain amount in assets and still be eligible. In 2011, the asset limit was $2,000 for most families, or $3,000 if at least one member was disabled or aged 60 or older. The primary residence is exempt from being counted as an asset. Individuals can own a car and still not exceed the asset limit, as cars with a Blue Book value of less than $4,650 are not counted toward the limit. If the value of the car is more than $4,650, any amount over the limit is counted. Families can also hold up to $5,000 for buying a home, starting a business or getting a college education.
Families cannot earn more than a maximum gross income limit if they want to receive CalWORKS benefits. California uses a Minimum Basic Standard of Adequate Care to determine the income limit, which is based on the cost of living in a particular area and the size of the family. Gross monthly income is calculated by adding together a family's total monthly income and then subtracting a standard deduction. The result is then compared to the current MBSAC chart.
Adults who receive CalWORKS benefits must find suitable work as quickly as possible — as of May 2011, there is a federal and state lifetime benefit limit of five years, or 60 months. CalWORKS requires all able-bodied, which are part of a two-parent family, to work at least 35 hours per week. If they receive federal day care help, then they must work at least 55 hours per week. Single parents must work a minimum of 32 hours per week. If unemployed, CalWORKS participants can meet the work requirements by engaging in job training or community service. Refusal to meet the work requirements will result in termination of benefits.