Welfare is government aid that is intended to help people who have little to no income, including the working poor. Aimed primarily at families with children, older individuals and those who are disabled, this aid can include cash assistance, food stamps and Medicaid. In some states, welfare might also take the form of vouchers, credits or grants. To be eligible for welfare in the United States, a person must apply, provide proof of financial need and meet certain federal and state requirements. He or she typically must be a legal citizen or resident, have a Social Security number and be seeking employment, training or education, and meeting certain family obligations might also be required.
Citizenship and Residence
To be eligible for welfare, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen or lawfully admitted to the country for permanent residence. Some exceptions might apply to citizenship rules. When an individual applies for welfare, his or her citizenship status is reviewed, along with the status of each household member, before assistance is granted. Each state also has its own residency conditions that must be met. For example, to be eligible in Pennsylvania, an individual must be living in that state and have the intention of remaining there.
Social Security Number
A Social Security number is needed for someone to receive welfare benefits, even for a child. If someone in an applying household does not have a Social Security number, he or she must apply for one, provide proof of applying for a number and give the number to his or her caseworker after it is issued. The caseworker might also need to have a copy of the person’s Social Security card.
Employment, Training and Education
Adults often must meet certain work requirements to be eligible. These can vary depending on the programs and the states in which they are seeking aid. Generally, recipients are expected to seek employment or training. Some states provide work training and employment search programs geared specifically toward welfare recipients.
In certain circumstances, a person might be exempt from work requirements. For example, an individual in a single-parent household that includes a child who is less than 12 months old might be temporarily excused from having to be seeking employment. Temporarily or permanently disabled recipients or people who are enrolled in substance abuse programs also might be excused. Additionally, people who are otherwise eligible for aid but are attending college might be eligible for a work exemption.
Depending on the state and specific program, there might be special requirements for single and separated parents regarding their dependent children and child support. Typically, recipients must seek child support and meet certain child support and parenting requirements, including efforts to find an absent parent. After child support is granted, the government might claim some or all of it to compensate for the aid that is being provided. Exemptions from child support cooperation are made for good cause, such as proven domestic violence situations.
As of 2012, many states were considering additional eligibility requirements. For example, some states were debating whether applicants should have to be drug tested on a regular basis. Other states were considering requiring photo identification for someone to claim a welfare check. Some states also were discussing whether recipients should have to perform community service.