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Tips on Applying for Welfare Benefits

How do you apply for public benefits?

You apply by submitting an application to the county assistance office in person or by mail. You can also apply on-line using the COMPASS website. A Common Application Form is used for most programs and is available from any public assistance office. A separate application form is used for energy assistance programs. The application must be returned to the local disrict county assistance office that serves your area.

What if you can’t complete the application form?

You should fill out as much of the form as you can and sign it. If you are having trouble filling it out, a worker at the public assistance office can help you complete it, if needed. You can also ask a friend or relative to help.

Can someone else apply for you?

Yes, if you are unable to go to the county assistance office because of your age or a disability, you can ask a family member or friend to be an “authorized representative” to help apply for you. YOU should sign and YOU need to participate in the interview. That's because you are legally responsible for all the information on the application. You will also need to give written permission authorizing them to represent you.

What are the income limits?

Each program has their own limits which vary. Most types of income are counted and certain expenses may be deducted depending on your household’s circumstances.

Are there resource limits?

Yes, each program has resource limits which vary.  Generally, resources that could be available to the household to purchase food, such as amounts in bank accounts, count as assets. Items that are not accessible, such as the household’s home, personal property, and retirement savings, do not count.

Do you have to be interviewed?

Yes, a worker will meet with you at the county assistance office to go over your application. You may bring someone with you to help you. If you are home bound, this interview can be done at your home or by telephone.

What kind of information do you need at the interview?

You will need to provide proof of your household’s circumstances. These are the kinds of things you should bring:

  • Proof of your identity such as driver’s license, library card, voter’s registration
  • Social Security cards for all persons applying
  • Proof of residence for all persons applying (homeless persons need only a mailing address)
    (You must live in the county where the application is made.)
  • Names and proof of age of all persons applying
  • Proof of shelter costs; copies of rent or mortgage payments, insurance, tax receipts, utility bills
  • Proof of income such as pay stubs, award letters or other documents showing amount received
  • Information about resources such as cash on hand, money in checking/savings accounts, real estate, motor vehicles, etc.

Depending on the program you are applying for and your individual circumstances you may need to provide additional information to establish your eligibility. You will be advised what additional information is needed. If you are having trouble getting information you need, the worker at the county assistance office can help you with this. Always provide complete and honest information.

If you are not a citizen, are you eligible for benefits?

Only certain non-citizens lawfully admitted are eligible to receive benefits. The rules for non-citizens are complicated. Even if some family members are not eligible due to their immigration status, other members may be able to receive benefits.

When will you know if you’re eligible?

The county assistance office is required to make a decision about your application within a certain period of time depending on the program you applied for, usually it’s within 30 days. You should receive written notice of their decision. If you are not eligible for benefits you are entitled to receive a written denial from the county assistance office.

If you’re eligible for benefits, how much will you get?

The amount of cash, SNAP benefits and energy assistance you will receive is based on your countable income and the number of persons in your household. The medical benefits you receive will vary depending on your category of medical assistance eligibility.

What if you need help right away?

If the county assistance office determines you are eligible and need immediate assistance based on your circumstances, you can receive benefits within five days.

How do you receive benefits?

Cash, SNAP benefits, and some medical benefits (Access) are received through the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system which uses a plastic card and personal identification number. Other medical benefits are received through managed care plans from participating provider. Energy assistance is generally paid directly to the utility provider.

How long can you receive benefits?

Your notice of eligibility will tell you how many months you can receive the benefit before you must reapply. You are required to report any changes in your circumstances which may effect your eligibility.

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