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.

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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 childcare 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 three ways to apply:

  • Online. Apply online through the ODJFS website.
  • In-person. Go to your county DJFS office.
  • By phone. Call (866) 635-3748, ext. #4.

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

Benefits from Ohio Works First

Your income and expenses determine your monthly benefits. In 2018, the average monthly payment was $203. Your benefits may be bigger or smaller.

There are two 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 three years. When the three-year period ends, you can file for a two-year extension. To file for an extension, contact your county’s Department of Jobs and Family Services (DJFS).

Each county DJFS makes its own extension rules. There are two types of extensions:

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

The maximum lifetime benefit is five years. If you receive five 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.

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