Written by Manyell Akinfe-Reed
Don’t Leave Money on the Table: Your Cheat Sheet to LA Resources
Navigating through public service resources and benefits can be an overwhelming task. Researching programs, gathering paperwork, and yelling at automated operators push eligible applicants to leave money on the table. Knowing where to start is half the battle.
The Los Angeles Public Services Department (DPSS) website is a good first step to finding money, food, and other free and low-cost benefits. The site provides detailed information and eligibility requirements for state benefits and other resources. To kickstart your research and save you some time check out this list of some of LA’s most common resources.
California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs)
CalWORKS is temporary cash assistance for pregnant women and families who have little to no income or property. Cash assistance may be provided for rent, housing, food, clothing, medical payments, and utilities. The amount of cash provided will depend on your family situation, resources, and income.
- United States citizen or immigrant who has been given permission to live in the US
- Social Security Number or have applied for one
- Have an eligible child(ren) and/or you are pregnant and.
- One or both parents do not live in the home, are no longer living, or are disabled; or
- Not employed or working less than 100 hours a month at the time your family applied for CalWORKS.
- Have less than $10,888 in cash, bank, accounts, and other resources ($16,333 if disabled or 60 years or older)
- Have a vehicle worth $25,483 or less
If you meet the basic requirements for CalWORKS but are a refugee or asylee you may be eligible for Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA). The (RCA) Program provides temporary assistance and employment-focused services through the Refugee Employment Program to individuals who are not eligible for other welfare assistance.
General Relief is a program that provides cash assistance ($221 / $375 2ppl) if you are an adult without money or resources. Children that are ineligible for federal or state programs may be eligible for GR.
- LA County resident
- Monthly net income lower than the maximum GR grant of $221. The monthly net income for a couple is $375
- $100 ($200 couple) or less cash on hand in a bank account.
- Personal property with a combined valued less than $2,000
- Motor vehicle valued at $4,500 or less.
CalFresh also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps, provides monthly benefits on a EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card which can be used to buy food at grocery stores, farmers markets and other locations. The amount you receive will depend on your income and the number of people in your household.
- Are a U.S. Citizen or a legal resident
- Income lower than maximum income level
If you meet one of the requirements below you may be able to receive benefits within three days or even as early as the same day after your application is received. To qualify you must meet ONE of the conditions below:
- Your combined gross monthly income and cash resources are less than your monthly rent or mortgage and utility cost.
- Your household has less than $150 in gross income AND cash resources of $100 or less.
- You or someone in your household are migrant or seasonal farmworkers who are destitute, and your cash resources are $100 or less.
If you and your family need additional food, 211 LA’s food resource page includes a food finder map that will help you locate food you in your area.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
WIC is a nutrition program that helps pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and young children under five eat well and stay healthy.
- Pregnant, had a baby within the last six months
- Breastfeeding a baby under the age of one
- Have a child under the age of five
- Experienced a pregnancy loss/termination
- Have income less than or equal to the guidelines
UTILITIES, PHONE AND INTERNET
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
LIHEAP helps with managing energy cost and immediate home heating and/or cooling needs.
The program can help with one-time financial assistance, provide help in an energy crisis, and offers free energy efficient upgrades.
If you qualify for LIHEAP, you may also be eligible for 20% off your monthly bill with California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE). If your income is slightly higher than the CARE and LIHEAP requirements, you may qualify for Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA). FERA, provides and 18% discount on electricity bills.
The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP)
LIHWAP provides up to $2,000 to help pay down outstanding residential water and sewer bills.
Additional resources for utilities:
Los Angeles Department Water and Power Assistance Programs
Utility Company Emergency Assistance
California LifeLine provides discounted home phone and cell phone services to qualified households.
- Enrolled in a public assistance program
California Low-Cost Internet Plans
The California Public Utilities Commission offers a search tool to find low-cost internet in your area.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, to get the most thorough assessment of the benefits available to you and your family your first step is to apply for CalWORKS here. If you qualified to receive CalWORKS or RCA benefits, you unlock a number of additional resources. Your Case Worker should share all benefits that are available to you; however, it is your responsibility to take control of your finance by becoming familiar with all that is available to you. Don’t leave money on the table.