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Help for single moms in California: 35 assistance programs

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If you’re a single mom in California struggling to make ends meet, keep reading for resources that help with: 

Every month, I give out $500 cash to one single mom struggling with money, health, stress, child care, illness or loneliness — no strings attached. 

Qualifications are simple:

1. You're a single mom.

2. You need the money right now.

Fill out this form to apply:

(Note that the figures and information in this post are current as of publication date.)

Many of the programs on this list determine eligibility as a percentage of the federal poverty level (FPL). These are the 2023 federal poverty guidelines:

Number of people in family/householdAnnual income

* For families/households with more than 8 people, add $5,140 for each additional person.

You can also look up your area median income (AMI) here.

Emergency cash for low-income families in California

If you need cash to pay bills, buy gas, feed your family, or for any other reason, these resources can help: 

Temporary Cash Assistance in California 

In California, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is called CalWORKS. This welfare program offers cash aid and services for qualifying families with children, or to relatives who have court-ordered custody of a child.

CalWORKS serves all 58 counties in California. Eligible families can receive immediate short-term help for: 

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Utilities
  • Clothing
  • Medical care

Those who qualify for ongoing assistance can receive money every month for up to 48 months as long as they enroll in the Welfare-to-Work program for a designated number of hours each week. 

Welfare-to-Work assesses participants based on their education and employment history to determine if they should: 

  • Be placed immediately into a job
  • Begin an education or training program
  • Combination of both 

Participants may also be eligible for child care and transportation services.

These are the maximum benefits per family size: 

Family sizeMinimum Basic Standard of Adequate Care (MBSAC) Limit


  • Live in California and plan to stay
  • U.S. citizen, or immigrant who has been given permission to live in the United States
  • Have an eligible child(ren) and/or are pregnant, and:
    • One or both parents do not live in the home, are no longer living, or are disabled
    • Both parents are living in the home, but the person who makes the most money is either not working or working less than 100 hours per month at the time of application 
    • Have a Social Security Number or have applied for one
    • Show that take-home wages are less than the maximum aid payment for each family size (MBSAC in the table above)
  • Have less than $10,888 in cash, the bank, all accounts, and other resources
  • Give proof of vaccinations for children under the age of six
  • Follow child support rules
  • Participate in Welfare-to-Work activities, completing a certain number of hours each week

How to get help:

  • Apply online on the Benefits Cal website
  • Contact the California Department of Children and Families at 800-540-4000
  • In person at your local Social Security Office

More emergency cash help in California

Single moms in California can visit or dial 2-1-1 to ask for assistance.

Check out these posts for more ways to get emergency cash: 

These are some more tips for getting cash quickly: 

Housing help for single moms in California

If you need help finding a place to live or paying your rent/mortgage, this program can help: 

Rental assistance in California

This California program can help renters find housing and pay their rent:

Public Housing and Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers affordable housing and vouchers to help low-income households pay their rent.


  • Citizen of the United States or equivalent
  • Combined household income needs to be below 80% of the median income in the area
  • More than 75% of all housing vouchers go to applicants in the extremely low-income bracket (less than 30% of AMI)
  • You can find your county’s income limits on the HUD website

How to get help: 


Mortgage assistance in California

If you need help buying a home in California, these programs can help: 

California Mortgage Relief 

The California Mortgage Relief Program is a free program that uses federal Homeowner Assistance Funds (a federal program that helps homeowners who are behind on mortgage payments due to COVID-19) to help homeowners catch up on their past-due housing payments and property taxes. Homeowners do not have to repay these funds.

Even if a household has previously received funding, they can still apply again. Each household is eligible to receive a maximum of $80,000 in total assistance. 

Qualifications for mortgage relief:

  • Must have experienced financial hardship because of COVID-19
  • Mortgage/loan servicer must be participating in the California Mortgage Relief Program (see participating loan officers)
  • Combined income of all household members over the age of 18 is at or below 150% of AMI 
  • Homeowners cannot have cash or assets on hand (excluding savings in a retirement account) that is equal to or greater than the relief funds needed + $20,000
  • The original balance of the homeowner’s main loan can’t be larger than the conforming loan limit
  • Own and live in a single family home, condo, permanently affixed manufactured home, or property with up to four units
  • Must currently own and occupy the property in California as their only residence
  • Past-due amount must be $80,000 or less at the time of application submission                     

How to get help: 

MyHome Assistance Program 

MyHome Assistance Program is a loan program with two down payment assistance options: 

  • CalHFA Government Loans (FHA): MyHome offers a deferred-payment second mortgage of an amount up to the lesser of 3.5% of the purchase price or appraised value to assist with down payment and/or closing costs
  • CalHFA Conventional Loans: MyHome offers a deferred-payment second mortgage of an amount up to the lesser of 3% of the purchase price or appraised value to assist with down payment and/or closing costs

Check today's mortgage loan rates >>


  • Be a first-time homebuyer
  • Occupy the property (which must be a single-family, one-unit residence, including approved condominium/PUDs) as a primary residence
  • Complete homebuyer education counseling 
  • Meet CalHFA income limits (below) for this program:
Contra Costa$282,000
Del Norte$159,000
El Dorado$202,000
Los Angeles$180,000
San Benito$208,000
San Bernardino$173,000
San Diego$211,000
San Francisco$300,000
San Joaquin$168,000
San Luis Obispo$216,000
San Mateo$300,000
Santa Barbara$198,000
Santa Clara$300,000
Santa Cruz$236,000

How to get help: 

  • Find a loan officer in your area on the CalHFA website

Homeless assistance in California

If you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, these programs can help: 

CalWORKS Homeless Assistance 

The CalWORKs Homeless Assistance (HA) Program is for families in the CalWORKS program (including eligible CalWORKS applicants). 

HA helps pay for permanent housing with a security deposit and 1-2 months of rent, and can also provide emergency shelter ($85 per day for up to 16 days) for families experiencing homelessness. 


Must be a current CalWORKs recipient or currently applying to CalWORKs. 

How to get help: 

Contact your local county welfare office to apply.

See if you qualify for a VA loan.

More California housing help: 

Electric bill assistance in California

If you are struggling to pay your utility bills in California, check out the following programs:

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) in California

LIHEAP pays for home heating and cooling for households who qualify. The payments from the program are paid directly to utility companies. 


  • Total income is no more than 60% of the California State Median Income (see table below)
  • Responsible for paying your home heating or cooling bills
  • California resident
  • U.S. citizen, qualified alien, or permanent resident of the U.S.
Persons In Household​​Monthly Income

How to get help:

Contact your local LIHEAP office.

Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)

The WAP program provides services to make homes more energy efficient, such as installing carbon monoxide detectors, removing mold, or replacing inefficient heating units. This helps families lower their monthly energy bills. 


  • U.S citizen or a qualified alien
  • California resident
  • Meet annual household income guidelines based on the number of people in the household: 
Persons In Household​​​Monthly​​​​ Income

Families receiving SSI, TANF or Aid to Families with Dependent Children benefits are automatically eligible.

How to get help:

Contact your county’s Weatherization provider.

More electric bill help: 

Free money to help pay bills

More housing help: 

Medical insurance and dental help for single moms in California

The following medical and dental services are available to qualifying individuals and families:        

California Medicaid

Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, provides medical coverage for low-income individuals and families:

  • Outpatient (ambulatory) services
  • Emergency services
  • Hospice and palliative care
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  • Laboratory and radiology services, such as X-rays
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Substance use disorder treatment services
  • Pediatric services
  • Vision services
  • Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT)
  • Non-medical transportation (NMT)
  • Long-term services and supports (LTSS)
  • Telehealth services


  • California resident
  • U.S. national citizen, permanent resident, or legal alien
  • In need of health care/insurance assistance with low income or very low income:
Household sizeMaximum income level per year

Must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • Pregnant
  • Caretaker for a child 21 or younger
  • Member of the household has a disability, including blindness
  • 65 or older

How to get help:

Apply for coverage on the Medi-Cal website or call (916) 558-1784.

Medi-Cal Dental Program 

The Medi-Cal Dental Program covers or helps with dental services for most Medi-Cal members (Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program). 

  • Diagnostic and preventive dental hygiene
  • Emergency services for pain control
  • Tooth extractions
  • Fillings
  • Root canal treatments 
  • Crowns 
  • Scaling and root planing
  • Periodontal maintenance
  • Complete and partial dentures
  • Orthodontics for children who qualify


If you are eligible for Medi-Cal, you are eligible to get dental services. You do not need to apply separately. 

How to get help: 

To contact Medi-Cal Dental, call the Telephone Service Center at 800-322-6384 or call your local County Social Services office.

Covered California Dental 

Family dental plans (DHMO and DPPO) are available to single and married adults, with or without children, who have a health plan through Covered California (sponsored by the Department of Health Care Services). 

  • DHMO plan has no deductible; no annual benefit limit; and a $350 individual out-of-pocket maximum (child only)
  • DPPO plan has a $50 deductible for adults and $75 for children; no annual benefit limit for children and a $1,500 limit for adults; and a $350 individual out-of-pocket maximum (child only)

Services covered include:

  • Diagnostic and preventive
  • Amalgam filling
  • Root canal
  • Gingivectomy
  • Extraction
  • Crown
  • Medically necessary orthodontia


At least one adult must be enrolled in a family dental plan for a child in the family to enroll.

How to get help: 

Call (800) 300-1506 or visit Covered California’s website.

Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) in California

HRSA, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, provides free or low-cost health and dental care to low-income people, including: 

  • General primary medical care
  • Diagnostic laboratory
  • Diagnostic radiology
  • Screenings
  • Coverage for emergencies
  • Voluntary family planning
  • Immunizations
  • Well child services
  • Gynecological care
  • Obstetrical care
  • Preventive dental
  • Pharmaceutical services
  • Substance use disorder services
  • Health education

HRSA also offers a 24/7 free and confidential mental health hotline for pregnant and new moms. Dial 833-943-5746 (833-9-HELP4MOMS).


Each health center sets its own eligibility criteria for free or reduced-cost care. 

How to get help:

Find an HRSA health center in California by typing in your address on HRSA’s search tool.

California Healthy Start

The Healthy Start Program is designed to help women with Medi-Cal coverage during and after pregnancy through services including: 

  • Nutrition
  • Dental education
  • Behavioral health services

Education services cover:

  • Prenatal care and parenting 
  • Conception 
  • Stress management
  • Local resources and assistance


Must be covered by Medi-Cal.

How to get help: 

More medical/dental help: 

Food help for low-income families in California

A number of federal and state food and nutrition programs are available across the state:

California Food Assistance Program: Cal-Fresh (SNAP)

Cal-Fresh provides free money for food on an EBT card, which can be used at qualifying food retailers to purchase:

  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meats
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Dairy
  • Plants and seeds to grow food 

Recipients can also take advantage of a program called Fresh Access Bucks (FAB). With this program, SNAP benefits can also be used for fresh fruits and vegetables at designated farmer’s markets, produce stands, CSAs, mobile markets, and community grocery outlets. 

Check out this list of food banks.


  • California resident
  • Current bank balance (savings and checking combined) under $2,500 or under $3,750 and share your household with one of the following:
    • Person or persons age 60 and over
    • Person with a disability

Recipients must also have an annual household income below these amounts: 

Household sizeGross income

*Each additional member +$758

How to get help: 

Apply for benefits on the Cal-Fresh website or call 877-847-3663.

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children is a nutrition program that provides free baby formula and nutritional food items to low-income mothers and their babies. 


  • Low-income, pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, for up to one year postpartum
  • Women up to six months postpartum who are not breastfeeding
  • Infants and children under 5 years old, including foster children
  • Low-income sole provider parents of children under age of 5 who are at nutritional risk and who are below 185% of FPL
  • If you are currently receiving Medicaid, Temporary Assistance, or Food Assistance help, you are also eligible for WIC

How to get help: 

Call your local WIC office or 888-WIC-WORKS (888-942-9675) and say you want to apply for WIC. 

Free school meals

California became the first state to mandate free meals to all students, starting with the 2022-23 school year. All K-12 public schools must provide free breakfast and lunch to students requesting a meal, even if they didn't previously qualify for free or reduced price meals.

California’s Summer Food Service Program

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services serves nutritious meals at no cost to children during summer break. Food is distributed at local schools, nonprofits, parks and libraries. 


These are the current income guidelines for the Summer Food Service Program

Annual Household Income Limits (before taxes)

Household SizeMaximum Income Level (per year)

How to get help: 

Find a location near you at the USDA Summer Food Service Program website.

California Food Banks

Food banks in California provide meals for individuals and families who are struggling to put food on the table. 


Each food bank sets its own eligibility and proof of need requirements. 

How to get help: 

To find a food bank near you and for additional information, visit the CA Food Banks website.

More food help: 

Child care help for low-income families in California

There are multiple federally funded education programs and resources in California:

California Head Start and Early Head Start

Head Start is a free federal preschool program for children aged 3 to 5 from low-income families. Early Head Start serves pregnant women and children under age 3. The programs focus on cognitive, social, and emotional development and prepare children for school. 


  • Children from birth to 5 
  • Meet federal poverty guidelines 
  • Children in foster care, homeless children, and children from families receiving public assistance (TANF, SSI, etc.) are eligible regardless of income
  • Some programs accept kids with incomes above the Poverty Guidelines
  • Pregnant women can also receive prenatal and postpartum information, education, and services through Early Head Start

How to apply: 

First 5 California

First 5 California/Proposition 10 helps children’s health and education in the early years of their development. Each county provides services for families with children ages 0-5.


Number of qualifying childrenCalifornia maximum incomeCalEITC (up to)Federal EITC (up to)Young child tax credit
3 or more$30,000$3,417$6,935$1,083
  • Recipient, spouse, and any qualifying children each have a Social Security number 
  • Do not use the “married/RDP filing separate” filing status
  • Live in California for more than half the tax year
  • Be 18 or older at the end of the tax year

How to get help: 

More child care help

Education help for single moms in California

If you’re a single mom who wants to further her education, here are some helpful resources: 

Get a GED in California

If you are at least 18 years old in California, you can take the GED test. If not, you must meet the following qualifications:

  • Within 60 days of your 18th birthday (regardless of school enrollment status)
  • Within 60 days of when you would have graduated from high school had you remained in school
  • 17 years of age; have been out of school for at least 60 consecutive days and provide a letter of request for the test from the military, a postsecondary educational institution, or a prospective employer

The GED test is broken into four exams on different subjects, which can be spaced out and taken at your own pace (though each individual exam has a time limit): 

  • Mathematical reasoning – 115 minutes
  • Reasoning through language arts – 150 minutes
  • Social studies – 70 minutes
  • Science – 90 minutes

You have two options for taking the test in California: 

  • In person — $35 per subject 
  • Online — $41 per subject 

Grants and scholarships in California

The Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA) connects students and prospective students with grants and scholarships available in California. To find out which scholarships and grants you may be eligible for, create a student profile on the OSFA website

Individual schools also offer need-based and academic scholarships for their students. If you’ve been accepted to a higher education institution, contact their office of financial aid to learn how to apply.

California Student Loan Forgiveness

Employment help for single moms in California

Workforce programs in California provide training and assist with employment:

CalWORKS Welfare-to-Work

The CalWORKs Program helps single moms in California prepare for employment. Transportation, child care, and covering work or training-related expenses are some of the services offered. 


  • The CalWORKs Welfare-to-Work Program is open to anyone receiving CalWORKs cash aid
  • Anyone receiving CalWORKs cash aid must participate in the Welfare-to-Work program unless that person is exempt due to being ill or incapacitated

How to get help: 

  • Call 916-657-2128

WorkSource Centers

WorkSource centers are government-funded locations that help unemployed single moms or people looking to gain new skills. These centers act as your personal employment agency, and all services are free. Employment support services include:

  • Job training, resume building, and interview skills
  • Phone and computer access; skills workshops
  • Employment referrals
  • Customized job matching
  • Career guidance and placement assistance

How to get help: 

Search for a location on the WorkSource website.

More employment help: 

Charity organizations in California

There are a number of charitable organizations throughout California that offer support to single moms:

The Salvation Army of California

The Salvation Army can help with:

  • Food, shelter and clothing
  • Medication costs
  • Education and job training
  • Christmas presents
  • Rent and utility bills
  • Substance abuse rehabilitation
  • Youth services
  • Emergency disaster response


Each Salvation Army branch determines its own eligibility criteria for different programs. 

How to get help: 

Catholic Charities of California

Catholic Charities assists with:

  • Housing
  • Utility assistance
  • Food assistance
  • Health care assistance

Catholic Charities operate in 30 counties across California. Check out that information here


Each Catholic Charities branch determines its own eligibility criteria for different programs. 

How to get help: 

  • Apply for assistance by reaching out to your nearest Catholic Charities branch in California 
  • Call 916-706-1539 

United Ways of California

The United Ways of California connects people in need with local resources like: 

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Child care services
  • Housing
  • Health care
  • Support groups

How to get help: 

Not your state? Select yours here: founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, and National Jeweler editor, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. Her next book, The 50/50 Solution, is out March, 2024 with Sourcebooks. More about Emma's credentials.

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