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This is a brief overview of social programs for California. If you live outside of California, then you need to contact your local government for the information, but I will mention two nationwide programs you should check out: Social Security Disability and SSI (Supplemental Security Income).

Some of these programs sound complicated, but they're really not; the government just can't hire a decent copywriter. I'll try to explain them as simply as possible.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

If you have worked and had taxes taken out of your paycheck by your employer, then you are most likely eligible for unemployment checks. Benefits vary according to what your income was.

If you have been working "under the table" and your employer has not been taking taxes out (or paying you in cash), it's unlikely you will get unemployment benefits, but you can always try.

To apply for unemployment, click here or call their offices at 1-800-300-5616.

You'll have to go through numerous voice prompts and then you'll be put on hold for about 10 minutes and forced to listen to recorded announcements; resist the urge to drive an ice pick through your eardrum.

When you finally get a real live person on the phone, they will ask you who your last employer was. They have this information sitting on a computer screen in front of them, but you have to tell them who your last employer was, or they can deny your benefits.

If you can't recall your last employer, then go to your local IRS office and they will tell you.

So be sure you know your last employer, your last day of work (approximately), reason for leaving the job, phone number, your social security number and your current mailing address.

Because the state of California cares so much about your financial crisis, they don't pay for your first two weeks of unemployment. So when you fill out your first claim form you don't get anything (but you still have to mail it in). The state basically is hoping that you'll magically get a job within those first two weeks so they don't have to send you a check.

To be eligible for unemployment the EDD says you have to:
  1. Be totally or partially unemployed.
  2. Be physically able to work.
  3. Be available for work.
  4. Be actively looking for work.
  5. And most importantly, be unemployed through "no fault of your own."

What does that mean?

If you were laid off, that is considered being unemployed through "no fault of your own."

What if you quit your last job?

Then you are going to have to do a telephone interview with the EDD, and they are going to ask "why did you quit your job?"

If you tell the EDD that you quit your last job for these types of reasons: "I didn't like the job, my boss sucked, the job sucked, I wasn't happy at the job," etc… that is usually considered "quitting without good cause" and there's a good chance you may not get your unemployment checks.

If you tell the EDD that you quit your last job for good cause: "I was being sexually harassed, my boss asked me to do something illegal, my boss wouldn't pay me overtime and violated overtime laws," etc…that is usually considered quitting with good cause and you will most likely get your unemployment checks.

What if you were fired from your last job?

If you were fired from your last job and your employer can "prove" they had good reason to (you stole something and they caught you) then you may be denied your unemployment check. There may be a phone interview with you and the EDD, but the burden of proof is always on the employer to prove you "quit" or prove they "fired" you for good cause. . .

How much does unemployment pay? For California, the maximum amount is $410 a week.

Each state is different. The state that pays the highest benefit per week is Washington State. Their maximum payment is 500.00 a week!

If your unemployment insurance runs out, ask about filing for an extension , depending on who's the White House you may get more benefits. It takes an act of Congress and the President to extend benefits. If there's a Republican in the White House, there's a good chance he won't extend benefits. If there's a Democrat in the White House, there's a good chance he will extend benefits.

STATE DISABILITY INSURANCE (SDI)

State Disability Insurance (SDI) is what you are paid if you are unable to work due to a physical or mental disability. When you were working at your last job, the state of California was taking money out of your pay check and contributing it to the state disability fund (SDI). This is a system you had to pay into when you were working, so you should have no hesitation about applying for it if you are disabled.

Some people think you have to be armless or legless to get disability. That's just not true. I know of people who have gotten disability for depression or anxiety, which is covered under the definition of a mental disability. In fact the EDD says that:

Disability is defined as any mental or physical illness or injury which prevents you from performing your regular or customary work (California Unemployment Insurance Code, Section 2626). This includes elective surgery; illness or injury resulting from pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions; or inability to work due to a written order of quarantine from a state or local health officer.

To apply for disability call 1-800-480-3287 or go to the SDI portion of the EDD web site. or go to a disability office. Or request a form by clicking here.

In some states, disability is handled by the social security office, but in California, the EDD (which also runs unemployment insurance) also runs disability insurance as well.

How do you find a doctor that will be sympathetic to your situation and sign his part of the form after examining you?

When you call to make an appointment ask the doctor's receptionist, "Does Dr. (his or her name) have experience in doing disability?" If they do not hesitate to answer "yes," Then that's usually a good doctor to go to. You'll have to go in tell him why you're applying for disability, he'll ask you some questions, examine you and then he'll fill out his part of the form.

After you and your doctor fill out both parts of the form (you will need to include the "date" you became disabled) then you must mail the form within 49 days of the date you became disabled or you may lose benefits. Why? I suspect it's the state (again) trying to find some way to deny you benefits.

If you are granted disability checks, you will have a one week waiting period before your first payment. This one week waiting period has never been explained to me by the government, but perhaps they are hoping the disabled will be miraculously healed.

Keep in mind that you cannot collect disability insurance and unemployment insurance at the same time. However, I do know of people who have filed for and gotten disability insurance AFTER their unemployment insurance came to an end.

SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY

Unlike the state program I mentioned above, this is a federal program. To qualify for benefits, you must first have worked in jobs covered by Social Security. Then you must have a medical condition that meets Social Security's definition of disability. In general, Social Security pays cash (monthly) to people who are unable to work for a year or more because of a disability.

In addition to meeting their definition of disability, you must have worked long enough--and recently enough--under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits.

Benefits usually continue until you are able to work again on a regular basis. There are also a number of special rules, called "work incentives," that provide continued benefits and health care coverage to help you make the transition back to work.

If you are receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach retirement age your disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same. To find out more click here . To apply click here. Or you can call 1-800-772-1213. Or you can go to your local Social Security office.

PAID FAMILY LEAVE

Paid Family Leave is a new government program that pays benefits to people who take time off of work to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, or domestic partner, or to bond with a new child. Workers may receive up to six (6) weeks of benefits that may be paid over a 12-month period.

GENERAL RELIEF AND FOOD STAMPS (ALSO KNOWN AS WELFARE)

Who applies for welfare? People who do not qualify for unemployment or disability insurance, or people who were collecting unemployment or disability and their claim ran out. A lot of famous people, like Naomi Judd, have been on welfare.

Welfare pays 220.00 a month. Isn't that generous of the state? They give huge tax breaks of millions of dollars (corporate welfare) to businesses, but you get a couple of hundred to survive. They do throw in about a hundred dollars worth of food stamps.

You can't apply for welfare online or over the phone; you must go into the welfare office and fill out all the paperwork. When I applied for welfare I went here:

Department of Social Services
11110 W. Pico Blvd. (at Pico and Sepulveda)
Los Angeles, CA 90065

Funny thing about that place, all the welfare workers were Russian. I don't know who got the bright idea of putting the Russians in charge of welfare, aren't these the same folks who ran the Gulag? What's next, are we going to put the Nazis in charge of immigration? Relax, I'm just kidding. My Russian welfare worker was very nice; she even had an attractive moustache.

To find welfare office locations in the Los Angeles area just click here.

If you just want food stamps, a list of offices in the Los Angeles area can be found by clicking here.

Be sure you get to the welfare office when it opens in the morning. Like Disneyland, it's an all day event.

Do all the paperwork EXACTLY as asked, no matter how ridiculous it seems. The paperwork is designed to confuse and frustrate people so they will give up and stop collecting welfare. Also be sure to ask questions!

IMPORTANT! When you apply for welfare you cannot have more than $50 in cash on you, or in a bank account, when you apply. However, you can own:

1. One car (not worth more than $4500)

2. Necessary household furnishings.

3. Tools of your trade.

4. The house you live in if the market value is assessed at no more than $34,000

If you live with your spouse, his or her income will be counted in deciding if you are eligible, unless your spouse gets SSI (more on that below)

You have to go from window to window, so bring along a good book.

They are going to ask you if you want food stamps and emergency cash aid. If you say "yes" to both, here's what happens.

You will receive a Food Stamp ID card and an issuance card. The welfare office will tell you where and when you can pick up your Food Stamps and cash each month (it's usually any check cashing place, but be sure to ask!).

Once you leave the welfare office you can get your food stamps THAT DAY. But you'll have to wait 30 days before you get your emergency cash aid, so if you have a financial emergency, you better bleed slowly!

AFTER you apply at the welfare office you have 30 days to register with the EDD (unemployment) office, get that paperwork done, fill out the job search history paperwork and return all the paperwork to the welfare office.

Every county determines how much money they are going to give people for welfare. What people get for welfare in Los Angeles may be different from what people in San Francisco get for welfare.

SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME (SSI)
AND
STATE SUPPLEMENTARY PAYMENT (SSP)

SSI (Supplemental Security Income) is a federal program that provides monthly cash payments to people in need. SSP (State Supplementary Payment) is the state's version of the program. Yes, you can get both!

Eligibility for both programs is determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) using Federal rules. If you qualify for SSI, then you qualify for SSP.

These programs for people who are 65 or older, as well as for blind or disabled people of any age, including children.

To qualify you also must have little or no income. This means that the value of the things you own must be less than $2,000 if you are single or less than $3,000 if you are married. The value of your home does not count. Usually, the value of your car does not count. And the value of certain other resources, such as a burial plot, may not count either. (These requirements may have changed at the time you are reading this.)

SSI/SSP recipients in California cannot get food stamps.

SSI/SSP pays A LOT more than welfare ($225.00 per month). The amounts include both federal and state payments combined. Not all SSI/SSP recipients receive the maximum amount.

To get SSI, you also must apply for any other cash benefits you may be able to get, (such as welfare which I covered above). The welfare office will actually help you apply for SSI, but you have to ask.

Additionally, SSI recipients are entitled to Medi-Cal (that's when the state pays your medical bills, to learn more about Medi-Cal call 1-877-597-4777 or go to a Medi-Cal office)

To learn more about SSI just click here or call 1-800-772-1213 or go to your nearest Social Security office.

CALWORKS

The CalWORKs program provides money and employment services to people with kids (who are under 18) or women who are pregnant and have one of the following conditions:

One or both parents are not at home, or dead, or disabled.

OR


Both parents are in the home, but the parent who normally works full-time is either unemployed or working less than 100 hours per month at the time you apply for assistance.

As usual, there are also some more conditions:
  1. Have a net monthly income less than the maximum aid payment for your family size. (You'll have to ask the CalWORKS people how much that is).

  2. Have less than $2000 in cash, bank, accounts and other resources ($3000 if 60 years or older). One motor vehicle valued at $4650 or less may be excluded from the resource limit ($2000). If the County agrees, participants may also save up to $5000 in restricted bank accounts to buy a home, start a business or pay for college or vocational training for a household member. Some resources do not count towards the $2000 limit:

    • A home, if the family lives in it.

    • Personal and household items such as furniture, appliances and computers.

    • Tools needed for employment.

    • Federal relocation and disaster relief benefits.

    • If property is owned with someone else, only the participant's share counts.

  3. Every parent/caretaker relative participating in CalWORKs must cooperate with the District Attorney (D.A.) to collect child support for the children from any absent parent.

  4. Participate in welfare-to-work (work activities that the government tells you to do).

  5. Have a net monthly income less than the maximum aid payment for your family size.

  6. Provide proof of regular school attendance for all school age children.

  7. Provide proof of immunizations for all children not enrolled in school.

  8. Be a United States citizen or a lawful immigrant.

  9. Have a Social Security number or have applied for one.

  10. Reside in California and intend to stay.

These rules may change; for a list of the most current rules click here.

You will have to go the CalWORKs office to get your benefits. To find office locations in the Los Angeles area click here.

MORE FINANCIAL AID PROGRAMS

Those are the biggies, but you can find other financial aid programs by clicking right here and right here!

Disclaimer: The Ihatemylife web site is not a guide to scam money out of the government or advice to commit any illegal act and/or fraud. I do not advocate the breaking of any local or state or federal laws. While I try to keep the info as current as possible, some of the information may have changed since this info has been posted. I am not responsible for any misinformation.

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