Health and Public Benefits

Cash assistance through Ohio Works First

If you need help paying for basic living expenses, you may be able to receive cash assistance. Find out what benefits you could get and how to apply for them.

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Understanding the Basics

See what you need to know to take action.

Ohio Works First provides temporary cash assistance to help families in need get back on their feet. It is part of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Each county is responsible for running its own program.

If your family is having trouble paying for housing, medicine, utilities and other things you need, this program may be able to help. 

How much money you would get depends on your family’s income and expenses. The average monthly payment in 2018 was $203. You can receive your payment through a prepaid debit card or you can have the money deposited directly into your bank account.

You can receive cash assistance through Ohio Works First for up to three years. When the three-year period ends, you can file for a two-year extension from your county's Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS). The maximum lifetime benefit is five years.

Eligibility for Ohio Works First

To get this assistance you must be:

  • A resident of Ohio
  • A U.S. national, citizen, legal alien or permanent resident
  • Pregnant or responsible for a child under 19 
  • Have a very low-income
  • Underemployed, unemployed or about to become unemployed

People who receive cash assistance may be required to participate in some form of work activity. You can use the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) website to check if you're eligible for Ohio Works First.

How to apply for Ohio Works First

To apply you need:

  • Identification, including a driver's license and social security card
  • Proof of child care or child support costs
  • Proof of current housing and utility costs
  • Proof of the last 30 days of income, or proof of job loss, if relevant

You can apply online through the ODJFS website. You can also apply directly through your county DJFS office, or call (866) 635-3748, ext. #4. After you apply, the county will schedule an interview. Be sure to bring all the documents listed above to your interview.

Were you denied Ohio Works First assistance?

If your Ohio Works First application was denied, but you don't think it should have been, you can contact your local legal aid for help.

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