Cash Assistance (CA) provides money to families who don't have enough to pay for basic needs like food, clothing, and rent.
CA defines a family as one or two parents living with their child or children under 18. If your child is 18 years old, they still qualify as long as they are in school full time and will be graduating before they are 19. A family could include biological kids, step kids, adopted kids, and children of relatives.
The Asset Limit
Assets are things you own. They can include:
- Checking accounts
- Savings accounts
To qualify for Cash Assistance, your assets have to be worth less than $2,000.
There are some things that the state understands you can’t use to pay for basic needs. That’s why the state doesn't include these things when they count your assets:
- The home your family lives in
- Personal goods like furniture, clothing, jewelry, appliances, and tools
- Your car
Plus, there are programs that let you save for the future without having those assets counted for the assets limit:
- If your disability began before you turned 26, you can save up to $14,000 each year in a tax-free ABLE account and not have it counted by CA. Learn more about ABLE accounts.
- If you are participating in an Individual Development Account (IDA) program, you can also have up to $9,000 in your qualifying IDA account. Read DB101's IDA article for more information.
Income is money you get from work, benefits, or other sources. There are limits on how much income you can have and still qualify for benefits, including TANF Cash Assistance.
The exact limits depend on your family situation. In Arizona, there are two income limits for TANF Cash Assistance, the Needy Family income test and the Cash Assistance Payment Standard test. Both limits look at your countable income. Countable income doesn't always include all of your income, so you may qualify for TANF Cash Assistance benefits even if you think your income is over the limits.
Your household income must be below both limits in order to get TANF Cash Assistance benefits.
To qualify for CA, you must first be considered part of a “needy family.”
For households where the head-of-household is a non-parent relative asking for TANF Cash Assistance benefits only for any dependent children, the household’s countable income cannot be more than 130% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG).
- Example: For a grandparent taking care of a grandchild, the countable income limit for the child to get TANF Cash Assistance benfits is 130% of FPG for a household of two ($1,736 per month).
- For all other households, the countable income limit for the household is 100% of FPG ($1,335 per month for a family of two).
The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) has charts showing the Needy Family income limits based on family size.
The Cash Assistance Payment Standard depends on your living situation:
How CA Counts Your Income
When counting your monthly income, Cash Assistance takes your gross income and subtracts:
Some of your earned income
- First, they subtract $90
- Then, they subtract 30% of what’s left
The money that (in order to be able to work) you spend on child care or or care for a household member with a disability
- They subtract up to $200 per month that you spend on child care for each child you have who is under the age of two.
- They subtract up to $175 per month that you spend on child care for each child who is two years old or older.
- They subtract up to $175 per month that you spend on care for an adult with a disability.
That means that when they look to see if your income is higher than the income limit, they won’t count a lot of your income.
Ethan and his wife Alyssa have one child and $1,000 per month in earned income. CA looks at that and doesn’t count the first $90. That leaves $910. However, they also don’t count 30% of the $910. In the end, they’ll only count what remains, which is $637. Ethan and Alyssa are paying rent on an apartment, so $637 is under the Needy Family income limit for their family size, but is more than the CA A1 Payment Standard income test. They are not eligible for Cash Assistance benefits.
Sam and Liz also have one child, but their earned income is only $300 per month. CA looks at that and doesn’t count the first $90. That leaves $210. They also don’t count 30% of the $210, which leaves countable income of $147. Sam and Liz don’t pay rent, so $147 is under the CA A2 Payment Standard income limit. They qualify for Cash Assistance benefits, help finding a job, and child care services needed for employment-related services.
The exact calculation of how much of your income CA will actually count is very complicated and will depend on your particular situation.
Your Benefit Amount
If you qualify for Cash Assistance (CA), the amount you get each month will depend on complicated calculations. Your benefit amount will vary depending on:
- Your household size
- Whether or not you have income
- Whether your income is earned, unearned, or both
- Whether or not the household members are related
- Whether you are paying allowable shelter costs like rent, mortgage, or property taxes
The more income you have, the lower your CA benefit will be. The maximum benefit for a family of three is $278 per month if you earn no money at work.
For CA there is a difference between unearned income like SSDI and earned income, which is money you make for working. When you have earned income, they subtract $90 from your income before calculating your benefit amount. If your income is unearned, they don’t.
Kaylee is a single mother of two. She has $200 per month in unearned income. All of her income is countable, because she doesn't work. That means her family gets:
$278 maximum benefit – $200 countable income = $78 per month in TANF Cash Assistance benefits
Jocelyn is also a single mother of two. She has a job where she makes $400 per month. Because she works, not all of her income is counted by the TANF Cash Assistance program. Her countable income is:
$400 – $90 (the $90 earned income decution) = $310
$310 – $93 (the 30% of remaining earned income deduction) = $217
$217 – $100 (money Jocelyn spends on child care) = $117 in countable income
With $117 in countable income, her family gets:
$278 maximum benefit – $117 in countable income = $161 per month of benefits
Thanks to working, Jocelyn has more income than Kaylee does, but also gets more in TANF Cash Assistance benefits.
If you earn money at work, the CA program is designed so that your benefit never goes down by as much money as you make. That means that you’ll always be better off if you have a job.
To apply for Cash Assistance (CA) you can:
- Apply online using Health-e-Arizona
- Download an application, fill it out, and submit it to your local DES/Family Assistance Administration office
- Get the application at your local DES/Family Assistance Administration officeand fill it out there
When you apply for CA, you can also choose to apply for Nutrition Assistance (formerly Food Stamps) or Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) health coverage without having to complete any additional application forms. If you need help completing an application, talk to a Work Incentive Consultant or you can call 602-542-9935 in area codes 480, 602, and 623, and 1-800-352-8401 from any other Arizona area code.