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. To determine whether or not you're eligible for CA, the state looks at your assets and your income. If your income and assets are low, you may qualify for CA.
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.
The Income Limit
Income is money you get from work, benefits, or other sources. There’s a limit to how much income you can have and still qualify for Cash Assistance. The exact amount of the limit depends on your exact family situation.
In Arizona, there are two income limits. The Needs Standard income limit is the most you can be making (depending on your family size) and be eligible for jobs assistance and child care services. The CA Payment Standard income limit is the most you can making and be eligible for Cash Assistance as well as jobs assistance and child care services. Here are a couple of charts to give you an idea. They show you the Needs Standard income limit and the CA Payment Standard income limit given your family size:
- Cash Assistance A1 Needs Standards is for a family that is paying rent or a mortgage.
- Cash Assistance A2 Needs Standards is for a family that is not paying rent or a mortgage.
It is important that you apply for Cash Assistance even if you think you might not qualify, because when you apply, not all of your income will be counted.
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 you spend to take care of a child or a household member with a disability
That means that when they look to see if your income is higher than the income limit, they won’t actually count a lot of your income.
Ethan and his wife Alyssa have one child and make $1,000 per month. 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 Needs Standard income limit for their family size, but not the CA Payment Standard income limit. They are eligible for some help, but no cash payment.
Sam and Liz also have one child but they only make $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, so all that remains is $147. Sam and Liz don’t pay rent, so $147 is under the CA Payment Standard income limit. They are eligible for Cash Assistance, jobs help, and child care 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 3 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 receives $200 per month in countable SSDI benefits because she is disabled. Her Cash Assistance calculation would be:
$278 maximum benefit – $200 countable income = $78 monthly
Jocelyn is also a single mother of two. She has a job where she makes $400 per month. Her Cash Assistance calculation would be:
$400 – $90 (Cost of Employment Income) = $310
$310 – $93 (the 30% deduction) = $217
$217 – $100 (for dependent care) = $117 in Countable Income
$278 Potential maximum – $117 in Countable Income = $161 monthly
As you can see, even though Jocelyn earns more money working than Kaylee does, she also earns more money in benefits.
If you do make some money, 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.
Everyone’s benefit calculation is different. Your Eligibility Interviewer who takes your application will determine the exact amount of money you’ll receive.
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.