How Do I Apply for Welfare?

Woman Overwhelmed by Bills

When financial hard times hit you in the form of a lost job, illness or other difficulty, financial assistance may be available through the welfare system. Understanding the steps needed to apply for welfare can help make the process a little easier.

Applying for Welfare

How you apply for welfare will depend somewhat on the state in which you live; even though welfare is a federal program, it is distributed at the state level. Each state also has a set of requirements that must be met. To apply for welfare you should call your local Human Service Department to make an appointment with a caseworker. When you do, they will provide a list of items you'll need to have when you come into the office. These items often include:

  • Two forms of identification
  • Social Security card
  • Bank statement
  • Proof of your last pay
  • Proof of income over the last 26 weeks
  • Proof of assets that could generate income
  • Work qualifications including references from employers
  • Birth certificates of dependent children (cannot be photocopies)
  • Proof of current rent or house payment and other costs
  • Spouse or partner's information

Applying Online

Some states offer the option of applying for benefits online, or offer forms online that you can download in PDF form, fill out and print before returning to the office. To find out, you'll need to contact your local human service department (see below.)

If you cannot apply for welfare online in your area, it does not hurt to call and ask if an electronic submission is welcome. Whether this is acceptable depends on office policy. Even if the caseworker agrees to accept your application by e-mail or online submission, it is likely you will still need to make an appointment to provide verification of your application. The office may not begin processing it until you have provided them with all of your documents.

Human Service Departments by State

The following links provide access to state specific contact information as well as benefits information to help make applying for welfare a little easier:

Woman Needs Financial Help

Types of Welfare

People who lose their source of income can turn to government welfare for help, but the welfare system offers assistance beyond unemployment. Programs are also designed to assist children, disabled people and older individuals. Those eligible for welfare can find assistance to help meet health, housing, cash assistance and tax relief needs. To be eligible for this aid a person must apply to receive welfare and in the process, provide proof of financial need in compliance with federal and state requirements.

  • Welfare includes programs such as:
  • Medicaid
  • WIC Program (Women, Infants, and Children Program)
  • TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families)
  • Nutritional Assistance (food stamps)
  • Housing Assistance
  • Unemployment

Time Limits on Benefits

In 1996, Congress overhauled welfare law and the current administration is considering changes as well. State laws and regulations also play a role in whether or not an individual is eligible for welfare assistance. Once you are approved, another thing to consider is that in welfare assistance for TANF is temporary in most states. Currently Michigan and Vermont are the only states that have no time limits on welfare benefits. When you apply for welfare, be sure to ask about your state's laws in regards to limits and compliance regulations.

How Do I Apply for Welfare?