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Welfare Aid

The United States provides limited welfare aid to Ukrainian arrivals. The main programs are discussed below.

Who is Eligible for Aid

Ukrainian humanitarian parolees with no or low income who arrived between February 24, 2022 and September 30, 3023 (including people who were paroled at the Mexican or Canadian border and people who arrived under the Uniting for Ukraine program), are entitled to federal benefits to the same extent as refugees. These benefits include free government-funded health insurance Medicaid or Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA), food money under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, and resettlement services through resettlement agencies. These programs are more fully described below.

Ukrainian humanitarian parolees with no or low income who arrived after September 30, 3023, are generally not entitled to federal benefits and resettlement services. Some states provide state-funded assistance to humanitarian parolees, including Ukrainians under the Uniting for Ukraine program, regardless their date of arrival. See what assistance is available in your state.

The aid is generally provided for the term of the humanitarian parole so long as the applicant meets income qualifications of the aid programs. If a person who was admitted to the U.S. on humanitarian parole applies and receives TPS, this person will not lose their aid because of the change of status and will continue to receive the aid until the end of their parole term.

Ukrainians who are in TPS status without the underlying humanitarian parole are generally not eligible for welfare aid, with the exception of a few states. Certain categories of people (mostly pregnant women and children) may be eligible for Medicaid.

Description of Welfare Programs

Free Health Insurance

Most low-income applicants on humanitarian parole are eligible for Medicaid, government-funded health insurance for low-income individuals and families. You are eligible for Medicaid if your family’s income is below a certain threshold (in most states, 138% of the federal poverty level). In California, Medicaid is called “Medi-Cal,” and in the state of Washington, it is called “Apple Health.”

Eleven states (AL, FL, GA, KS, MS, NC, SC, TN, TX, WI, and WY) limit Medicaid availability to certain categories of people, for example, families with children, pregnant women, elderly or disabled. If you are in one of those states and are not eligible for Medicaid, you can obtain Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA) insurance instead. This health insurance provides coverage for refugees and Ukrainian parolees who are not eligible for Medicaid for the first 12 months after arrival. It has the same scope as Medicaid and is also free for you. After the first 12 months, RMA coverage will expire and you will have to purchase a private health plan.

Ukrainian parolees receive full Medicaid/RMA coverage of any necessary medical services, including routine doctor visits, emergency room visits, treatment of chronic conditions, hospitalization and prescription medication. The coverage of dental and vision services varies state by state. All health services and prescription drugs are covered at no cost to you. Medicaid/RMA has an option of 3-month retroactive coverage which you can request when submitting an application if you incurred health-related expenses prior to your application. See more at the Health Insurance page.  

SNAP (aka CalFresh in California)

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, is financial aid to buy food. You will receive a debit EBT card to which the government will make monthly contributions, and you will be able to use this card to buy food items at grocery stores. You cannot withdraw SNAP money in cash from the EBT card.

In 2022/23 fiscal year, you can receive monthly a maximum of $281 for a single person, $516 for a family of two and $740 for a family of three. See chart for other family sizes. If you have some income or assets, or receive cash assistance, the SNAP amounts may be lower.

TANF (aka CalWORKs in California)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is cash aid to families with minor children and pregnant women. The amount of cash you can receive under TANF varies state by state and depends on your family size. You can receive TANF money via check, on your EBT card or via direct deposit in your bank account.

TANF program is meant to be temporary, until you find your next employment and become self-sufficient again. If you are receiving TANF assistance, the state typically requires that you actively look for a job, attend school that helps you get employed or otherwise participate in employment-promoting activities 20-30 hours per week. You can receive an exemption from this requirement in some cases, for example, if you have a newborn child or are caregiver to a disabled family member.

Many states run other assistance programs as part of TANF, including homelessness prevention programs and child care assistance programs. Inquire at your welfare agency about available services. 

Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA)

Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) is cash aid program for single people and couples without minor children, who do not qualify for TANF. RCA is given for 12 months after arrival, with the same maximum monthly payments as TANF provides.

Like TANF, RCA program is meant to facilitate employment. After approving your aid, the social services agency will typically refer you to a local resettlement agency that can help you find your first job in the U.S.

Women, Infants and Children Aid (WIC)

WIC (short for Women, Infants and Children) program provides supplemental healthy foods and health screenings for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age 5. Unlike the above-mentioned programs for which you can apply though your county welfare agency, you should apply for WIC via your state’s WIC website or by calling a toll-free number.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is financial aid for people aged 65 or older, blind or disabled. In 2023, the maximum monthly amount of SSI on the federal level is $914 per person, or $1,371 per couple where both spouses are eligible. Some states pay additional sums out of their own budget. Apply for SSI at the Social Security Administration office. You will need your passport, I-94, and Social Security Number.

Resettlement Services

Aside from the above-mentioned mainstream benefits, Ukrainians may qualify for refugee resettlement assistance, such as, for example, Matching Grant program, which includes assistance with housing, cash, immigration forms and employment. Inquire about these additional services at your closest resettlement agency.

Matching Grant

Matching Grants are available to refugees and other ORR-eligible populations through resettlement agencies in many states. These grants can provide financial assistance to help refugees cover basic living expenses, such as rent, food, and transportation.

  • Eligibility: Families of 4 or more who have been in the country for less than 30 days and have not applied for CalWorks. Must have a rental agreement.
  • Benefits:
    • Cash allowance: $200/month for each adult, $40/month for each minor
    • Housing assistance: Up to $600/month for a studio, $1000/month for a 1-bedroom, $1400/month for a 2-bedroom, $1800/month for a 3-bedroom
  • Duration: Up to 6 months

To learn more about Matching Grants in California, please contact your local resettlement agency.

How to Apply

You can apply for mainstream benefits such as Medicaid/RMA, SNAP, TANF and RCA at your county welfare agency. They are named differently in different cities and states, for example:

  • In Los Angeles: Department of Public Social Services (DPSS)
  • In San Diego: Health & Human Services Agency (HHSA)
  • In the State of Washington: Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)

Google “social services” and the name of your county to locate the agency in your county. 

In eight states (AK, KS, KY, ME, MO, NV, TN, and TX), refugee resettlement agencies rather than social service agencies administer RCA and RMA programs. If you are a childless adult or couple and your county social service office denied your application for cash assistance and/or Medicaid, apply for RCA and/or RMA at the closest refugee resettlement agency.

Bring with you your passport, form I-94 (if you did not receive I-94 at the border, you can print it online), a proof of residence in your county (any official letter showing your name and address, a utility bill in your name, a rental agreement, or a letter from the owner of the house saying that you live there), and your Social Security Number. If you do not yet have a Social Security Number, bring proof that you have applied for it, such as a receipt from the Social Security Administration or a copy of form I-765 with a Receipt Notice confirming its acceptance by USCIS .

Oftentimes, you can apply for welfare benefits online. However, it may better to find the closest office and come in person – that way you can get help in filling out the forms and ask your questions. You can also be interviewed and receive approval right away instead of having to wait for a telephone interview after submitting an online application.

If you were not interviewed at the social services upon submitting your application, look out for a call from a social worker who will conduct a phone interview with you.

All welfare agencies provide interpreters. Request an interpreter in the office or at the beginning of the telephone interview if you don’t speak English.

If You Have a Supporter under Uniting for Ukraine

Neither the income of your supporter, nor the help your supporter provides to you matter for purposes of your eligibility for welfare aid. (The only exception is the SNAP program – you will not be eligible for food stamps if you live and share food with your supporter.)

If the social worker asks you about the income of your “sponsor,” explain that you do not have a sponsor who signed form 864 (a stricter form for family immigration cases where the sponsor takes full financial responsibility for their relative). Rather, your supporter signed form I-134, which is not binding on your supporter, and under AUSAA, your supporter’s income does not matter for your eligibility for welfare aid.

If You Received a Denial

If you received a denial, don’t give up. Social workers are humans and often make mistakes, especially when dealing with new laws. They may also be not very good at communicating. You can:

  • Check with the welfare agency and find out the reason for the denial. Normally, the welfare agency will send you a letter explaining the reasons. But if you have not received a letter, you can always ask.
  • If the denial is because you did not provide required documents, you can submit these documents and ask to re-open your case or open a new one.
  • Ask to appeal the denial. Appeals are handled by more knowledgeable employees, and they will likely be able to spot and reverse the mistake if there is one.
  • Apply again.
  • Apply at a different office if there are several offices in your county. You may encounter a more knowledgeable worker elsewhere.

Print the following documents and show them to the social worker:

Frequently Asked Questions

EBT Card

Will my supporter have to repay the welfare assistance I get?

No. The U.S. government has allocated federal funds to aid Ukrainian parolees in resettling in the United States. While your supporter undertakes responsibility to ensure your necessities are met, his or her assistance and the government’s assistance are complementary, and your supporter will not have to repay those benefits.

If I receive welfare assistance, can it later affect my application for a change of status?

No, welfare assistance granted to Ukrainians under the Uniting for Ukraine program has no impact on any future change of status.

Do I have to report how I spend my cash assistance?


Will I keep my benefits if I move to another city or state?

Welfare benefits are typically administered on the county level. If you move to another county within the same state, you need to notify social services in the new county, and they will help you transfer your case to the new county.

If you move to another state, you have to close your benefits case at the social services in your former state and open a new case in your new state. You cannot receive benefits in two states at a time. If you do not close your case in your old state, your application in the new state will be denied. Keep in mind that Medicaid/RMA health insurance does not cover any out of state services except for emergency treatment.

Why do I receive less aid than another person or family I know?

The amounts of cash aid and food stamps are calculated on a case-by-case basis and may depend on your county, family size, income, resources and living arrangements. If someone you know receives a different amount of benefits, it is likely because their situation is different than yours.

You are entitled to know how your amount of benefits was calculated, and your county social services agency usually sends you a letter with this calculation when your benefits are approved. If you did not receive the letter or do not understand the calculation, ask your social worker for more information.

A social worker said I have to work or study in order to continue receiving aid, can I forego this requirement?

If you receive cash assistance, you are typically required to work or participate in job search, training or other employment-promoting activities 20-30 hours per week. The social services agency can assist you in finding a your first job or refer you to courses or English language classes if that would help you get employed. The goal is to help your family become self-sufficient. If you refuse to participate in these activities, your cash aid may be discontinued.

You can receive an exemption from this requirement in some cases, for example, if you are a senior, have a newborn child or are a caregiver to a disabled family member.

Am I eligible for welfare assistance even if my supporter provides food and housing for me?

Yes, you are still eligible for welfare assistance if you do not have income of your own. The amount of your assistance may be lowered if your supporter is providing you with food and housing. Be truthful in your benefits application and explain your living situation to the social worker. However, you do not need to provide information about your supporter’s income to the social services.

What is considered “income” that I have to report to social services?

What is income: your wages; money you receive from renting out your property; revenues, distributions or dividends from your share in a business; pensions; disability benefits; SSI. Most of the time, income is regular.

What is not income: occasional gifts or donations from family, friends or charities; money from one-time sale of your property (such as your car); savings. This money would be considered resources.

If I brought my savings in cash and put them in a bank, will that affect my benefits?

Each state has its own rules about whether your resources such as cash count towards your eligibility for benefits, which benefits, and what the disqualifying amounts are. You can often find these rules on your social services agency’s website or ask your social worker.

If your state has a resource limit for certain benefit, the location of that resource usually does not matter so long as it is available to you. For example, if your state has a rule that cash in the amount of $10,000 disqualifies you from receiving cash assistance, you would be disqualified whether you keep $10,000 in an American bank, Ukrainian bank or at home in cash.

If I buy a car, does that affect my benefits?

Each state has its own rules about the effect of owning car on benefits. Usually, the value of the car up until certain amount does not count towards your eligibility for benefits, but that amount is different in every state. Ask your social worker about your state rules.

Will I lose free health insurance and other benefits if I find a job?

Not necessarily. Welfare benefits are calculated based on your income level vis-à-vis your household needs. If your income is low or you have a large family, you may have a job and receive welfare benefits. 

Your benefits approval letter indicates an income reporting threshold – when your household income reaches that level, you must report to the social services, and they will reevaluate your eligibility and amounts of your benefits.

If you are no longer entitled to free health insurance based on your income, you may nevertheless be entitled to subsidized (cheap) private health insurance if your income is not very high. For more information, see Health Insurance.

Who can help me fill out the benefits application?

In some states, benefits applications may be available in Russian or Ukrainian languages and be pretty self-explanatory. In other states, they may be available in English-only and be confusing. If you are not sure how to apply, ask your supporter or family member to help you. 

If you don’t have anyone nearby, you can get help completing your application at the social services office. Social workers are obligated to help applicants with their applications.

Another option is to contact your closest resettlement agency – most of them assist Ukrainians with applications for benefits and work authorization.

I was asked to provide a Social Security Number, but I don’t have it yet. What can I do?

Social services may ask for your Social Security Number (SSN) or a proof that you’ve applied for one. It is recommended to apply for an SSN at the Social Security Administration first, and then apply for benefits. Even if you have not received your SSN yet, a receipt from the Social Security Administration showing that they’ve accepted your SSN application should be sufficient for the social services to process your application for benefits.

A social worker asked me to provide information about my sponsor’s income. Do I have to?

No. In some types of immigration cases, such as family-based immigration, a sponsor takes financial responsibility for the beneficiary, and the sponsor’s income is deemed to the beneficiary. You do not have that type of a sponsor. Explain to the social worker that the income of your supporter under the Uniting for Ukraine program is not deemed to you, and you do not have to provide information about it.

How long does it take for my application for benefits to be approved?

The state must process your application for food stamps within 30 days and your application for Medicaid/RMA within 45 days. Cash assistance applications are usually reviewed within the same time period.

Where can I see my EBT card balance?

Your EBT card balance is printed on the receipt when you pay with your card at the store. Most states also have benefits portals where you can check the status of your benefits and the balance on your EBT card. There are various mobile apps, too, such as Providers, ConnectEBT or ebtEDGE.

If I don’t spend the balance on the EBT card, does it expire the next month?

No, your balance will transfer to the next month.

Where can I withdraw cash from the EBT card?

You can withdraw cash assistance at most mainstream bank ATMs. If the ATM has logo QUEST on it, it accepts EBT cards. Some ATMs may have withdrawal limits per transaction and/or charge a fee.

You cannot withdraw food stamps money from an EBT card.

Can I use my EBT card in another state?

Yes. You can pay with your EBT card in almost any state you travel to. However, note that you may face issues with cash withdrawal in another state’s ATMs.

If you move to another state to live there, you have to close your benefits case in your old state and open a new one in the new state.

My EBT card was hacked and money stolen, what should I do?

Contact the social services immediately by calling the number on the card or coming in person. They will help you report the incident and restore the money.

EBT fraud is very common! Do not keep your cash assistance money on the EBT card – either withdraw it quickly after it’s deposited or request a direct deposit in your bank account at the social services.