Assistance Programs in California – Get Help with Rent, Health, Bills and More

When you lose your job in California, it can difficult to make ends meet and provide basic needs for you and your family with your CA unemployment benefits. Fortunately, there are many different state and local agencies and nonprofit organizations available to help you until you can find another job.

Help with Healthcare and Medical Expenses in CA

Medi-Cal

Medi-Cal is the state’s Medicaid program. To qualify, you must be a citizen or legal alien living in California and meet the income guidelines. In addition, unless you are over age 65, pregnant, or have a disability, you must have at least one dependent child living in your household.

Income Requirements for Medi-Cal

Household Size*       Maximum Income Level (Per Year)
1 $15,800
2 $21,307
3 $26,813
4 $32,319
5 $37,825
6 $43,331
7 $48,851
8 $54,389

 

You can apply for the program online at the Covered California portal or visit your local Department of Health Care Services office. You can find the office closest to you on the DHCS website. For more information about Medi-Cal and how to apply, call the office directly at 916-445-4171.

Free and Low-Cost Health and Dental Clinics

If you do not qualify for Medi-Cal but still can’t afford to pay for your health care expenses, you can get care at one of the state’s 800+ community health clinics and centers. Many offer free care, while others charge on a sliding fee scale or a flat low-cost co-pay of $10 or $20 per visit.

Please note that in some cases, you may be required to show proof of income before receiving care. Call ahead if you’re not sure.

Here’s a list of community health and dental clinics in the major cities and counties in California.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Arroyo Vista Family Health Centers

These centers offer free and sliding-scale healthcare services. There are five locations plus a mobile health van. Most offices are open from 8:30 am until 5:30 pm (or 7 pm for some locations).

  • Highland Park Office: 6000 N. Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90042. 323-254-5221
  • Lincoln Heights Office: 2411 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90031. 323-987-2000
  • El Sereno Office: 4837 Huntington Dr North, Los Angeles, CA 90032. 323-225-0024
  • Loma Drive Office: 303 S. Loma Dr, Ste 202, Los Angeles, CA 90017. 213-201-5800

Community Clinical Association of Los Angeles County

1055 Wilshire Blvd

Los Angeles, California 90017

213-201-6501

There are 60 member clinics throughout Los Angeles county providing a variety of health and dental services. Services may be free or on a sliding scale based on income. Call the main number or visit the organization’s website for information on a clinic near you.

QueensCare Health Centers

This is a network of healthcare and dental providers offering affordable care to uninsured and underinsured individuals in the LA county area. Work physicals, immunizations, pediatric well checks, maternity care, and even free or low-cost prescription drugs are available. There are five member clinics; the main contact number is 323-635-1140.

  • 184 South Bimini Place – Phone: (213) 858-5126
  • 4448 York Boulevard – Phone: (323) 344-5233
  • 4816 East 3rd Street – Phone: (323) 780-4510
  • 150 North Reno Street – Phone: (213) 380-7298
  • 4618 Fountain Avenue – Phone: (323) 953-7170

ORANGE COUNTY

Laguna Beach Community Clinic

362 3rd St.

Laguna Beach, CA 92103-9000

Phone – (949) 494-0761

Free and sliding-scale based healthcare and prescription medications are available on a walk-in basis.

RIVERSIDE COUNTY

Eastside Health Center

4445-A Magnolia Ave.

Riverside, CA 92501

Phone – 951-788-3471

Health and dental clinic offering free and sliding-scale services Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY

Cares Community Health Clinic

1500 21st Street

Sacramento, CA

Phone – (916) 443-3299

Preventive and primary care services, dental screenings, pharmacy, plus mental health and substance abuse treatment available.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY

San Ysidro Health Centers

There are 17 health centers in the SYHC network offering a variety of services including primary care, women’s health, pharmacy, dental, mental health, urgent care, and diagnostic tests. They also administer a WIC program and provide transportation in some locations. Find a list of locations here or call the main number at 619.662.4100 for information or to find a clinic near you.

SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY

San Francisco Department of Public Health

The Department of Public Health provides a network of health and dental clinics throughout San Francisco county. Call 1-800-876-4766 for information about finding healthcare services near you. You can also view this list of frequently called numbers for a specific clinic or department.

SANTA CLARA COUNTY

Gardner Family Health Network

Gardner has nine locations in Santa Clara county and offers a full spectrum of health and dental services on a free or sliding-scale basis. You can view a list of locations here or call 408-918-2600 for more information.

VENTURA COUNTY

Community Memorial Health System

CMHS operates two hospitals and 12 community health clinics throughout Ventura County. Services are provided on a free or sliding scale basis. You can view a list of locations here or call 805-652-5011 for more information.

Cash Assistance in CA

The California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) is the state’s version of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. It provides cash benefits to families who are unable to meet their basic necessities.

Families with immediate needs for housing, food, utilities, or medical care may qualify for short-term, lump-sum benefits for emergency relief. Those with more ongoing needs may qualify for a longer-term monthly benefit payment based on citizenship status, age, income, family size, and available resources.

You may qualify if you meet one of the following eligibility requirements (from the CalWORKs website):

  • Families that have a child(ren) in the home who has been deprived of parental support or care because of the absence, disability or death of either parent.
  • Families with a child(ren) when both parents are in the home but the principal earner is unemployed.
  • Needy caretaker relatives of a foster child(ren).

Applications are made at your local county Department of Social Services; you can find your local office here. You can also apply online at the E-Benefits California website.

You will need the following documentation in order to apply:

  • Social Security number or proof of application for a number for each person applying for aid.
  • Proof from US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly INS) of permanent resident alien status.
  • Pregnancy verification if an unborn is the only eligible child.
  • Pay stubs for all persons working now or who got paid this month for a job that ended.
  • Proof of income from Worker’s Comp, Unemployment Insurance, Disability, or Military benefits.

Generally, you can access CalWORKs benefits for up to 48 months as long as you meet the “welfare to work” requirements. Note, however, that this is a “lifetime” limit. Benefits are calculated on a number of factors that also consider where you live within the state; the more expensive urban areas pay a slightly higher benefit than the rural counties.

The following chart shows 2017 grant maximums. A family is “exempt” if the caregiver(s) are disabled.

CalWORKs Maximum Grant Amounts
Region 1 Region 2
Family Size Exempt Non-Exempt Exempt Non-Exempt
1 $392 $355 $374 $336
2 $645 $577 $616 $549
3 $799 $714 $762 $680
4 $949 $852 $904 $810
5 $1,080 $968 $1,031 $922
6 $1,214 $1,087 $1,157 $1,035
7 $1,334 $1,195 $1,272 $1,136
8 $1,454 $1,301 $1,385 $1,239
9 $1,571 $1,407 $1,498 $1,340
10 $1,689 $1,511 $1,610 $1,438

Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI)

This program provides cash benefits for legal immigrants who have been denied federal social security or disability benefits due to their immigration status. In order to qualify for the monthly payments:

  • You must live in California
  • You must be a legal immigrant
  • You must be over age 65 or blind or disabled
  • You must have been denied SSI because of your immigration status.

The rules for CAPI are very complex, but if you think you may qualify for benefits, contact your county Department of Social Services. You can find the address and phone number of your county office here.

Rent and Mortgage Assistance in CA

MORTGAGE ASSISTANCE

California is one of 18 states that qualified for the Hardest Hit Fund, a special program established under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) of 2010. The program was reapproved in 2016 with an additional $2 billion to help low and moderate income families keep their homes.

In California, the program is called Keep Your Home California and it is managed by the CalHFA Mortgage Assistance Corporation. The program has assisted over 70,000 Californians keep their homes. You can apply online at the website or call 888-954-KEEP for more information. Income guidelines are quite liberal; depending on where you live, you can earn up to $88,000 per year in rural areas and $121,500 per year in more expensive urban areas and still qualify for assistance.

There are four main programs available:

  • Unemployment Mortgage Assistance. This program helps qualifying unemployed homeowners keep their homes. Benefits of up to $3,000 per month are available to individuals who are receiving unemployment benefits from the state of California.
  • Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance. If you have fallen behind on your mortgage and are facing foreclosure, you may qualify for up to $54,000 to help you catch up on your mortgage payments.
  • Principal Reduction Program. Families who have suffered financial hardship may qualify for a one-time principal reduction modification.
  • Transition Assistance Program. If you are short-selling or looking at a deed-in-lieu to avoid foreclosure, you may qualify for funds to help you find transitional housing.

You can also contact the California Housing Finance Agency at 916-373-2585 for more information about the Hardest Hit Fund and how it can help you remain in your home.

ASSISTANCE WITH RENT/EVICTION

Many organizations in California participate in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Continuum of Care program which provides grants to help families and individuals avoid eviction and homelessness as well as provide transitional housing for those families who are unable to remain in their homes.

In addition, families who qualify for the CalWORKs program may also be eligible for emergency cash assistance for rent. You can find your local county Social Services agency here; contact them for information about emergency rent payments.

Here is a list of local agencies by county that may offer additional assistance paying rent and avoiding eviction.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY

The Los Angeles County Housing Resource Center is a clearinghouse that connects individuals in crisis with the appropriate programs in their area. You can reach them at 1.877.428.8844.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY

United Way California Capital Region

10389 Old Placerville Road, Sacramento, CA 95827

Phone: (916) 368-3000

SAN DIEGO COUNTY

South Bay Community Services

430 F Street, Chula Vista, CA 91910

Phone: 619-420-3620

SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY

Hamilton Family Center

1631 Hayes Street

San Francisco, CA 94117

Phone: (415) 409-2100

FRESNO COUNTY

Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission

1920 Mariposa Mall

Fresno, CA 93721

Phone: 559-263-1000

The EOC administers Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) for qualified applicants. In general, you must meet the following requirements to qualify:

  • Have an income 30% below median family income in Fresno County.
  • One or more of the following conditions apply: Have moved in the past 60 days due to economic reasons, live in the home of another due to economic hardship, received notice that current housing will end within 21 days, live in a hotel or motel due to economic conditions, have more than 1.5 people per room in current housing, or living in a shelter or other temporary situation.

Statewide, you can also contact your local Catholic Charities office, which may provide cash and other material assistance for individuals facing eviction and other financial hardships. The state administrative office is located in Sacramento and the phone number is (916) 706-1539. They will be able to direct you to an office near you.

Help with Childcare and Education Expenses in CA

The CalWORKs Child Care Program provides help with child care expenses in California. The program has three parts:

  • Stage 1 lasts for up to six months while the parent is engaged in welfare-to-work activities and seeking employment.
  • Stage 2 can last up to two years and provides assistance paying for childcare once the individual has found a job. The objective is to help stabilize the financial situation.
  • Stage 3 is for individuals who have exhausted their 24 months of eligibility or for families who receive a lump-sum diversion payment in lieu of monthly benefits.

The funds can be used for the type of care the family feels best meets their needs, whether that is approved in-home daycare or a preschool or other daycare facility.

CalWORKs also helps with before- and after-school care and referrals to daycare providers in your area. Contact the office by phone at (800) 543-7793 for help finding your local Department of Social Services and for information about how to apply.

*Current and proposed income ceilings to qualify for subsidized childcare in California.

The Child Care Resource Center is an organization that helps low-income families and those in financial hardship pay for quality childcare. The organization currently assists over 18,000 children with subsidized care. Eligibility is based on income and family size.

There are four offices in California; contact the one closest to you to see if you qualify and how to apply:

20001 Prairie Street

Chatsworth, CA 91311

818.717.1000

Monday: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm

Tuesday – Friday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

250 Grand Cypress Avenue

Palmdale, CA 93551

661.789.1200

Monday: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm

Tuesday – Friday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

1111 East Mill Street, Suite 100

San Bernardino, CA 92408

909.384.8000

Monday – Friday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

15456 West Sage St

Victorville, CA 92392

760.245.0770

Monday – Friday: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

If you live in Los Angeles County, you can also contact the Los Angeles Universal Preschool Program which provides parents with assistance finding quality preschool options. They are located at 888 South Figueroa Street in Los Angeles. Call them at (213) 416-1200.

Help Paying Your Utility Bills in CA

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) was established to help Californians pay their home utility bills. The program includes financial assistance to offset heating and cooling costs as well as weatherization and other home improvements to make utility bills more affordable.

They may also assist families who have received a disconnect notice for nonpayment on their utilities.

To qualify, your income cannot exceed 60% of the following maximum income guidelines:

 

Household Size* Maximum Income Level (Per Year)
1 $25,103
2 $32,827
3 $40,551
4 $48,275
5 $55,999
6 $63,723
7 $65,171
8 $66,619

 

To apply, call the LIHEAP program at 1-866-675-6623 or find your local participating energy provider here.

Most California utilities companies work directly with low-income individuals to help lower their monthly energy bills and avoid termination. If you are experiencing a financial hardship or emergency, contact your energy provider and ask what programs are available to help.

In addition, if you meet low-income guidelines, you may be eligible for special energy rates through the CARE program. Discounts are typically 30-35% for electricity rates and 20% for natural gas. The 2017 income guidelines are as follows:

 

CARE Income Guidelines*
Household Size Income Eligibility Upper Limit
1-2 $32,040
3 $40,320
4 $48,600
5 $56,880
6 $65,160
7 $73,460
8 $81,780
Each Additional Person $8,320
* Effective June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017

To apply for CARE, contact a participating energy provider below:

Phone Numbers and Websites for Energy Assistance Programs
Utility Emergency Payment Website
PG&E 866-743-2273 CARE
Edison 866-675-6623 CARE  
SDG&E 800-411-7343 CARE
SoCalGas 800-427-2200 CARE
Alpine Nat’l Gas 209-772-3006
Bear Valley Elect 800-808-2837 CARE
PacifiCorp 888-221-7070 Financial Assistance
Liberty Utilities 800-782-2506 CARE
Southwest Gas 877-860-6020 Special Programs
West Coast Gas 916-364-4100

*Information taken from the California Public Utilities Commission website.

Help with Groceries and Food in CA

The food stamps program in California is known as CalFresh and each county has its own application guidelines and procedures. You can apply at your local Department of Social Services office here or online at the BenefitsCal website.

Income guidelines for CalFresh are as follows:

Household Size 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
130% FPL 1287 1736 2184 2633 3081 3530 3980 4430
200% FPL 1980 2670 3360 4050 4740 5430 6122 6816
Maximum Benefit 194 357 511 649 771 925 1022 1169

 

You will also need to meet other non-income requirements, such as being in a return-to-work related program or activity, although work rules have been waived through December 31, 2017.

The Women Infants and Children (WIC) program also provides vouchers for certain foods (fruits, vegetables, dairy products, legumes, infant formula and food) for low-income families who are pregnant, nursing, or have children under the age of 5.

Income guidelines to qualify are as follows:

Household Size Annual Income
1 $21,978
2 $29,637
3 $37,296
4 $44,955
5 $52,614
6 $60,273
7 $67,951
8 $75,647

To apply, call Call 1-888-WIC-WORKS (1-888-942-9675) or find your local WIC office here.

Food Banks in California

The California Association of Food Banks represents over 40 food banks and 6,000 charities to help provide food to California’s needy families. You can contact them at 866.321.4435 to find a partner organization near you or search online at the CAFB website.

FoodPantries.org is an online resource for finding food pantries and other areas offering free meals. Visit their website to find a food pantry or soup kitchen near you if you need immediate help with food and groceries.

Statewide, you can also contact your local Catholic Charities office, which may provide cash assistance for groceries for families in need. The state administrative office is located in Sacramento and the phone number is (916) 706-1539. There are offices in every major city in California; call to find the local agency near you.

Additional Aid and Resources by City and County in CA

FRESNO COUNTY

Catholic Charities Diocese of Fresno

The Diocese has offices in Fresno (149 N Fulton Street), Bakersfield (825 Chester Ave.), and Merced (336 W Main Street) and offers a food pantry, thrift store, and crisis and emergency assistance to families experiencing hardship. Offices are open from 8 am until 4:30 pm, closed daily between 12 and 1 for lunch. Apply in person. Be prepared to show proof of identity, proof of address, and proof of income when you apply for aid. You can contact the Fresno office at (559) 237-0851 with questions.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY

The Salvation Army of Southern California

There are over 20 Salvation Army branches in Los Angeles County offering all types of assistance including food pantry, thrift stores, cash and material aid, and crisis and emergency assistance for families in hardship. Call them at (562) 264-3679 to find the organization nearest you or check the website for your local Salvation Army office.

ORANGE COUNTY

Community Action Partnership of Orange County

This is an association of organizations and agencies that provide food, clothing, and financial assistance (including help with rent and utility bills) to low and moderate income families in Orange County. Contact the main office at  (714) 897-6670 for information about what’s available in your area and how to apply for assistance.

RIVERSIDE COUNTY

Community Action Partnership of Riverside County

2038 Iowa Ave. Suite B-102 Riverside, CA 92507

Phone: (951) 955 – 4900

With five offices in Riverside County, the Community Action Partnership provides low and moderate-income families with services and support including utility assistance, free tax planning, and youth tutoring and after-school care programs. They also offer referrals to other agencies who can help families in crisis.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY

St. Vincent de Paul Sacramento Council

This is one of the leading charities in the Sacramento area and provides food, clothing, diapers, hygiene items, medical supplies, and cash assistance in some cases to families in need. Contact them at 916.972.1212 to find out what services are available and how to apply for aid. You can also visit the main office and thrift store at 2275 Watt Avenue in Sacramento.

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY

Catholic Charities Diocese of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties

Catholic Charities operates eight offices in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. They offer emergency assistance, help with rent and utility bills, groceries, thrift store, and other services to families in hardship.

San Bernardino Regional Center

1800 Western Avenue, Suite 107

San Bernardino, CA 92411

Phone: 909-880-3625

Ontario Regional Center

SOVA-904 East California

Phone: 909-391-4882

Riverside Regional Center

3020 Madison Street

Riverside, CA 92504

Phone: 951-689-1803

Moreno Valley Regional Center

23623 Sunnymead Blvd, Suite E

Moreno Valley, CA 92553

Phone: 951-924-9964

Coachella Valley Regional Center

83-180 Requa, Suite 8-9

Indio, CA 92201

Phone: 760-342-0157

High Desert Regional Center

15000 7th Street

Victorville, CA 92395

Phone: 760-243-1100

Murrieta Regional Center

39429 Los Alamos Rd, Suite B

Murrieta, CA 92563

Phone: (951) 691-8203

The main administrative center is in San Bernardino and can be reached at (909) 388-1239.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY

United Way of San Diego County

The United Way offers low and moderate income families referrals and case management services to help them find the resources and assistance they need to meet their basic living needs as well as move into financial stability.

4699 Murphy Canyon Road

San Diego CA 92123

Phone: 858-492-2000

SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY

Salvation Army Golden State Division

The Salvation Army offers food, clothing, vouchers for gas, utilities, and medication plus other assistance for basic living needs. There are 31 locations in San Francisco County. The main office is located at 832 Folsom Street, San Francisco, California 94107. Search for a location near you on the website or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY for help.