The CalWORKs program – California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids - provides cash assistance to families with children who need help with housing, food, utilities or clothing, as well as welfare-to-work activities for adults, such as looking for a job, attending job training, or furthering their education. It is California’s version of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, TANF, program. In California, more than 530,000 families receive assistance through the CalWORKs program.

Blog post

The breakdown with Frank Mecca
It’s time to update the CalWORKs Earned Income Disregard

Let’s start off with the basics, what is the Earned Income Disregard and how does it work?

When the Legislature – on a bipartisan basis – implemented CalWORKs, which is California’s version of federal welfare reform, there were several key tenets; one of them is that work should pay. The idea is that as families on CalWORKs are able to move into the workforce and earn money, we won’t deduct dollar-for-dollar from their CalWORKs check.

Budget Priority

CalWORKs 2.0 SAWS Automation Budget Memo

The County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA) requests consideration and support for funding to automate the CalWORKs 2.0 tools in the SAWS and make them available to CalWORKs participants via the SAWS online web portals, as part of the 2019-20 budget. Currently, the CalWORKs 2.0 tools are primarily paper based, and there is no way to store much of the information they capture in the SAWS, which is the system of record for the CalWORKs program. This lack of automation impedes outcome tracking.

Budget Priority

CalWORKs Earned Income Disregard Budget Memo

CWDA requests support for strengthening the Earned Income Disregard (EID) for the CalWORKs program. The EID is the amount subtracted from a CalWORKs recipient’s income to determine eligibility for assistance and, once on the program, monthly grant amounts.  By allowing certain types of income to be excluded from grant calculations, the EID is intended to facilitate and encourage paid employment. However, the EID has not been changed since the CalWORKs program was created in 1997.

Download the advocate coalition letter – May 7, 2019

Download the full CalWORKs EID budget memo – February 21, 2019

Budget Priority

Support Increased CalWORKs Single Allocation Funding

The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) and the County Welfare Directors Association (CWDA) support the Assembly’s proposal to restore $23.5 million that was proposed to be cut from the Single Allocation in the 2018-19 May Revision. The Senate also took an action to restore $10 million to the Single Allocation for employment services, and we thank both houses of the Legislature for their support of this vital funding.

Budget Priority

Support Ending Deep Poverty in the CalWORKs Program

The County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA) respectfully supports the Senate’s proposal to increase CalWORKs grant levels in order to end extreme poverty for children in the CalWORKs program. The CalWORKs program serves 1.1 million individuals in California, 80 percent of whom are children. Yet, the level of support provided to CalWORKs families today is insufficient to meet basic needs and lift all of these children out of deep poverty.

Budget Priority

Support CalWORKs Home Visiting Initiative

The County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA) supports the Assembly’s proposal to expand and enhance voluntary evidence-based home visiting by making permanent the CalWORKs Home Visiting Initiative and utilizing the resources provided by the Administration for the first few years of the program to extend its reach to CalWORKs families beyond first-time parents under age 25.

CalWORKs Home Visiting Initiative Memo – May 29, 2018

Blog post

California must increase the CalWORKs grant to keep children out of deep poverty
SB 982 is an investment to lift children out of deep poverty and allow them to thrive, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars

California is officially the fifth- largest economy in the world, unemployment is low, and our state is prospering. Yet, we also have the stain of the highest rate of children living in poverty in the nation. California’s coffers are filling up, but our social safety net programs intended to lift families out of poverty aren’t doing enough to meet the high costs it takes to live here.


Senate Bill 982 (Mitchell)

CalWORKs – Ending Childhood Deep Poverty

CWDA supports SB 982, which would eliminate deep poverty in the CalWORKs program by placing a minimum grant level to ensure no CalWORKs grant falls below 50 percent of the federal poverty line.  By doing so, this bill will protect children from the worst harms of chronically unmet basic needs and better enable the CalWORKs program to achieve its goals.

Download SB 982 CalWORKs Fact Sheet

SB 982 Sponsor Support Letter - March 26, 2018

Budget Priority

CalWORKs Single Allocation Cut:
A Direct Hit to Clients

The proposed $248 million cut to the CalWORKs Single Allocation comes on the heels of a current-year, $160 million cut. If adopted, this would mean a reduction of more than 20 percent over two years. Counties cannot sustain their programs at this level of funding. A new fact sheet from CWDA provides additional detail and examples from counties regarding the effects of staffing and services cuts on the families we serve.

CalWORKs Cut Impact Fact Sheet

Budget Priority

CWDA, SEIU California Urge CalWORKs Budget Restoration

CWDA and SEIU State Council have issued memos to the chairs and members of Assembly Budget Subcommittee 1 and Senate Budget Subcommittee 3, urging their restoration of a proposed $248 million cut from the CalWORKs Single Allocation, which funds eligibility activities, employment and supportive services, and child care to CalWORKs recipients. The cut proposed in the May Revision is $50 million higher than that included in the January budget and represents a 13.3 percent cut to the current year funding level.

Budget Priority

CalWORKs Outcomes and Accountability, Restoration of Funding and Budget Methodology

CWDA is requesting support of CalWORKs by establishing a new outcomes and accountability review system to foster continuous quality improvement in the program, requiring the California Department of Social Services to develop recommendations for a new budgeting methodology for the CalWORKs Single Allocation, and retaining the state’s fiscal investment in CalWORKs.

Budget Priority

Support CalWORKs Homeless Assistance Program

CWDA is requesting support to ensure that homeless families in California’s CalWORKs program can access safe, temporary housing. Homelessness is a critical barrier to self-sufficiency and to the health and well-being of children, families, and society. Specifically, CWDA is seeking to eliminate a requirement that days of homeless assistance must be taken consecutively, increase the daily per diem rate, and clarify eligibility for CalWORKs families impacted by the dependency system.

Budget Priority

Support CalWORKs Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

CWDA is requesting support for families in CalWORKs by allowing counties to offer mental health and substance abuse services to children in the program. CWDA is also requesting support to align statutory language on CalWORKs mental health services in the Welfare and Institutions Code with related statute on CalWORKs substance abuse services that permits county human services to contract with community-based providers for assessments when the county department is unable to do so.

Items on display at Washington Street Productions.

Tehama County Creates Washington Street Productions
Provides Meaningful Work, Addresses Client Barriers, Increases Work Participation Rate

How do you provide CalWORKs clients meaningful work and job training in a small rural county where steady employment opportunities are scarce?

Create your own workplace. That’s just what the Tehama County Department of Social Services has done with its innovative Washington Street Productions, an employment program designed to provide immediate, meaningful subsidized work for clients, while addressing barriers and increasing job skill development, and also increase the work participation rate for welfare recipients.


WIOA Cost-Sharing Webinar

This webinar focused on critical information that partners need to successfully negotiate Phase II of the WIOA MOU development process. An overview of the Phase II MOU requirements, content, and timeline was provided, with a focus on requirements for sharing infrastructure costs, the combined budget for applicable career services, and the optional sharing of other system costs.

Featured Content

CalWORKs 2.0 – Working Toward Serving Families in a Holistic Way

In 2016, CWDA launched a project called the CalWORKs Strategic Initiative, later renamed “CalWORKs 2.0,” with the goal of transforming CalWORKs into a comprehensive program that better meets the needs of individual families and supports families in a more holistic way.


CWDA Child Care Use Survey

Child care is an important service available to parents in the CalWORKs program. In summer of 2016, CWDA conducted a survey of more than 400 CalWORKs parents to better understand their child care arrangements. This follwing brief provides the results of that survey.

Child Care Utilization in the CalWORKs Program - June 22, 2016

General information

Evaluation of the SB 1041 Reforms to CalWORKs Program

The California Budget Act of 2012, through a trailer bill known as Senate Bill (SB) 1041, contained significant reforms to the CalWORKs program. The SB 1041 reforms to CalWORKs aim to engage participants in more-intensive work activities as early as possible, while also providing more flexibility in work activity options and increased incentives for work as participants move toward self-sufficiency.


Work Participation Rate Best Practices Webinar

CWDA hosted a webinar in May 2015 designed to share best practices for improving a county’s Work Participation Rate.