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Tulare County, like many other places in our nation, includes individuals and families who are down on their luck: they’ve lost a job and don’t have the skills to get another one; they’re having health problems but can’t afford health care; they have hungry kids but not enough money to buy food; someone has died but they don’t have the money for burial. They’re homeless. They struggle with a mental illness. They’re single moms or dads who just aren’t able to make ends meet with the amount of income they receive. They’re teenagers with no clue how to prepare for the child they are expecting. Fortunately, TulareWORKs provides programs that can help in all these situations.
TulareWORKs (which stands for Tulare Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids) is a division of the Human Services Branch of HHSA that administers several “safety net” programs that provide essential resources and services to children and families experiencing financial hardship, life crises, or barriers to employment. Let’s take a brief look at those services.
The CalWORKs (Cash Aid) program provides money and services to eligible families that have a child in the home. If a family has little or no income and needs housing, food, utilities, clothing, or medical care, the CalWORKs program may be able to provide immediate, short-term help. Families that qualify for ongoing assistance receive money each month to help pay for such necessary expenses. The amount of a family's monthly assistance payment depends on a number of factors, including the number of people who are eligible, the special needs of any of those family members, and the family’s current income.
Families that are finding it difficult to afford the nutritious food they need might be able to participate in the CalFresh Program (formerly known as Food Stamps). CalFresh provides monthly benefits that help low-income households buy healthy and nutritious food.
Families that qualify for CalWORKs benefits may also receive employment-related services through the Employment Services and/or Family Stabilization programs, which can help families become self-sufficient. The Employment Services program can assist recipients with finding and keeping a job by helping them to build skills, a work history, and knowledge of the current labor market. Services include job skills training, job search assistance, work experience, subsidized employment, and vocational training. The Family Stabilization program helps to alleviate barriers to success in the Employment Services program by providing mental health counseling, domestic abuse services, substance abuse treatment, and life skills classes. In both programs, supportive services may also be provided to assist with certain costs, such as: mileage or bus passes, child care, diapers, work clothing and/or supplies, or books and other school supplies. All these services are geared toward helping participants become capable of supporting their families independently.
For persons experiencing financial hardship but who are ineligible for most public assistance programs, the General Assistance (GA) program might be able to help out. GA provides temporary cash aid to adults who are unable to support themselves, do not receive other public funds, and are ineligible for any other cash assistance programs. There are two types of General Assistance:
- Employable: If a person doesn’t have a job but has the mental and physical ability to work (or earns less than the GA income limit) and is willing to accept any work that he or she has the ability to do, the person may qualify for GA assistance.
- Non-Employable: If a medical or mental health professional deems an individual unable to work due to a physical or mental disability, he or she may qualify for GA assistance.
Additionally, the GA Indigent Burial program assists with the cremation of individuals whose families don’t have the resources or funds to pay for funeral expenses. Applications are available in English and Spanish at TulareWORKs offices, funeral homes, the coroner’s office, and veterans services offices. If certain conditions are met, the County will pay for the funeral home to have the body cremated. The applicant can then pick up the cremains (ashes) from the coroner’s office.
Good health care is important for everyone, from birth to old age, but some folks struggle to come up with the funds to pay for health insurance—yet not going to the doctor regularly can result in unresolved health problems. Medi-Cal can help by providing no- or low-cost health care for individuals, families with children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, foster children, pregnant women, and persons with chronic diseases such as tuberculosis, breast cancer, or HIV/AIDS. Services include:
- Primary health care
- Pregnancy and family planning
- Dental services
- Mental health services
- Substance abuse treatment
- Vision care
- Medications (pharmacy)
For disabled persons who have a physical and/or mental health condition(s) expected to last 12 months or more, which prevents them from being employed, there is the SSI (Supplemental Security Income) Advocacy program. Self-sufficiency counselors assist disabled individuals through the complex social security application and/or appeal process, with the ultimate goal of getting approved for SSI/SSDI support.
Another program to help struggling families, the Cal-Learn program is designed to help teen parents graduate from high school, become independent, and form healthy families. Case managers assist and support the teens with challenges they face by helping them develop a plan to finish high school or earn a GED. Supportive services include help with child care expenses, school expenses, transportation expenses—even diaper expenses—and referrals for additional supportive services. To qualify for Cal-Learn you must live in the same household as your child, be under 19 years old, not have a high school diploma or GED yet, and not be in foster care.
So as you can see, TulareWORKs offers a wide variety of programs to help the less fortunate. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to navigate the system of programs, understand the eligibility requirements and policies, or know what to do next. The TulareWORKs Family Advocate responds to inquiries, complaints, or concerns regarding any of the above services. With a high level of discretion and integrity, the Family Advocate provides assistance and support to clients and community partners to help them better understand TulareWORKs policies and procedures, and assists with concerns and complaints that haven’t been resolved through other avenues. If you are a TulareWORKs client and your problem has not been resolved by speaking with your caseworker or his/her manager, contact the Family Advocate for assistance.
For questions, assistance, or to apply for TulareWORKs services by phone, one only needs to call 1-800-540-6880—or apply online at https://www.mybenefitscalwin.org.