Needy refugees and other eligible populations may qualify to receive benefits and services from a number of federal and state social service programs depending on their length of residency in the United States (U.S.) and other eligibility criteria. (Eligibility criteria and documentation requirements differ among the populations we serve. See the Office of Refugee Resettlement "What We Do" webpage for details.) However, all refugees are expected to become self-sufficient as soon as possible. Please note that the term "refugee" used throughout this web page is intended to include all eligible populations served under the federal Refugee Resettlement Program.
(See the "Who We Serve" page for a detailed list of the populations we serve.)
- Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA)/Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA) - needy refugees without children who are not otherwise eligible for any other cash aid may be eligible for eight months of RCA. These individuals may also be eligible to receive employment and other social services during the same 8-month period. See "Services" below for more information.
- California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) - refugee families with children may qualify for cash aid, medical assistance, employment services and other support services through the CalWORKs program.
- Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA)/Entrant Medical Assistance (EMA) - needy refugees who are otherwise ineligible for Medi-Cal or Covered California may be eligible for health services for eight months. A refugee does not have to receive RCA to receive RMA/EMA benefits. The RMA/EMA program is administered by the California Department of Public Health, Refugee Health Section and delivered at the local level through a Refugee Health Coordinator.
The RCA/ECA, CalWORKs and RMA/EMA programs serve all 58 counties in the state and are operated locally by county social services/welfare departments. Refugees may apply for benefits in the county where they live. To find a nearby office, visit the on-line County Offices website.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and the State Supplemental Program (SSP) - elderly, blind or disabled refugees may be eligible for federal SSI/SSP benefits. Refugees who are not eligible for SSI/SSP solely due to their immigration status can apply for Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI). Both SSI/SSP and CAPI provide monthly cash assistance to aged, blind and disabled refugees. The SSI/SSP benefits are administered by the federal Social Security Administration (SSA).
- Other benefits such as food assistance and Medi-Cal, may also be available to refugees from their local counties. Also visit the California Department of Social Services Finding Services web page for additional benefits and services offered by other programs.
You can apply for Public Social Services benefits online by visiting the following website: E-Benefits California
- Refugees may also be eligible for refugee-specific services in refugee-impacted counties. These may include employability services, English language instruction, on-the-job training, transportation, day care, citizenship and employment authorization document assistance, translation/interpretation and others. Contact a County Refugee Coordinator to determine what services are available in local communities, and/or to get additional information on refugee program services and eligibility.
- Vital to the success of refugee resettlement services are the contributions made by the Resettlement Agencies (RAs), Ethnic Community Based Organizations (ECBOs) and faith/community-based organizations (CBOs). ECBOs and CBOs provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services and assist refugees with acculturation into American society. RAs assist refugees during their initial placement and provide services for 90 days after arrival in the U.S.