Health and Public Benefits

Cash assistance from Ohio Works First

If you need help paying for basic living costs like housing and medicine, you may be able to receive cash assistance. Learn more about getting cash benefits from Ohio Works First.

Follow these steps to make sure that you get or keep all the benefits and tax credits you are eligible for in 2022:

  • File your 2021 tax return. Even if you aren’t required to or don’t normally file your taxes. There are changes to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit that you can only get if you file 2021 taxes.
  • Update your household info with ODJFS. Many people have been displaced or experienced changes in their lives during the pandemic. Update your Medicaid and SNAP cases to make sure you keep your benefits and know when deadlines are coming up. Call (844) 640-6446 or go to "Government and Community Resources" on this page to find the contact information for your local ODJFS office. 
  • Update your household info with your child’s school. Schools need to keep your information up to date so your child(ren) receive available free or reduced-price school meals and Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) funds. If your child is out of school because of a COVID-19 related reason, make sure to report the reason for their absence to your child’s school so that they may receive P-EBT funds for qualifying absences. Even if your child is receiving free school meals during the COVID-19 pandemic, submit a new National School Meals Program application to your school so that they do not lose access if they are still eligible after the pandemic. Learn more at ohiopebt.org.
Send this page to:

Understanding the Basics

See what you need to know to take action.

Ohio Works First gives temporary cash assistance to needy families. If your family has trouble paying basic living costs like housing, utilities and other necessary things, Ohio Works First may help.

Ohio Works First is part of the federal program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Each county runs its program independently.

Eligibility for Ohio Works First

To get cash 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

To receive cash assistance, Ohio Works First may require that you participate in “work activities.” Work activities include things like on-the-job training, community service and education related to employment.

Applying for Ohio Works First

To apply for Ohio Works First, 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

There are several ways to apply:

Make your application as complete as possible. JFS or the State of Ohio may contact you if they need more information, so check your mail and messages. Keep your contact information up to date. Let JFS know if you move or change your phone number.

After you apply, the county schedules an interview. Bring your identification, and proof of income, expenses and child care.

Benefits from Ohio Works First

Your income and expenses determine your monthly benefits. In November 2021, the average payment was $221. Your benefits may be bigger or smaller.

There are 2 ways to receive benefits:

  • Through a prepaid debit card
  • Deposited directly to your bank account

How long benefits last

You can receive cash assistance for up to 3 years. When the 3-year period ends, you can file for a 2-year extension. To file for an extension, contact your county’s department of Job and Family Services (JFS). Go to "Government and Community Resources" on this page to find the contact information for your local JFS office. 

Each county JFS makes its own extension rules. There are 2 types of extensions:

  • Hardship. A hardship extension can be received any time after the first 3-year period ends.
  • Good cause. To receive a good cause extension, a family must wait at least 2 years after the first 3-year period.

The maximum lifetime benefit is 5 years. If you receive 5 years of benefits, your benefits cannot be extended.

If your application is denied

If your Ohio Works First application is denied, and you believe you are eligible for benefits, contact your local legal aid for help.

Forms and Letters

Find forms and letters that you can fill out yourself.
There are no forms related to this topic.

Local Government and Community Resources

Find courts and helpful resources in your community.