EBT SNAP food stamps welfare

Welfare Aid

On May 21, 2022 President Biden signed the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022 (AUSAA), which makes Ukrainians who arrived in the U.S. on humanitarian parole eligible for largely the same mainstream and resettlement federal benefits as refugees.


Who is Eligible for Federal Aid

All Ukrainians and people who resided in Ukraine prior to the war and who were admitted in the U.S. on humanitarian parole between February 24, 2022 and September 30, 2023 are eligible. This includes people who were paroled at the Mexican or Canadian border and people who flew in under the Uniting for Ukraine program.

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 the U.S. on a visitor visa or changed status from a visitor visa to TPS are not eligible for federal aid.

Some states, for example, California, offer state-funded health insurance and may offer other benefits to people with visitor visas or TPS. Inquire at your state welfare agency.

What Federal Aid is Available to Ukrainians

Ukrainian parolees with no income or low income can receive the following welfare aid:

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.”

Some states limit Medicaid availability to certain categories of people, for example, 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 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. 

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.

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.

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.


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 “department of human assistance” and the name of your county to locate the agency in your county. 

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: