Colorado Works

Frequently Asked Questions

Colorado Works helps low-income families by giving them money to pay for basic needs like food, clothing, and rent. At the same time, it helps these families find ways to become more financially stable by offering things like education and training, job referrals, help applying for other benefit programs, or other steps to create more income. Colorado Works also helps with things like child care or finding housing. Colorado Works is part of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which has different names (and somewhat different rules) in different states. Learn more about Colorado Works.

To get Colorado Works, you must:

  • Be a Colorado resident
  • Have a child under 18 at home (or be pregnant)
  • Be a U.S. citizen, legal alien, or qualified alien
  • Have very low or no income
  • Work with your case manager to create an Individualized Plan listing the steps needed to make you more financially stable, then sign and follow your plan
  • Cooperate with Child Support Services to get child support payments for your children, if applicable (unless you have good cause not to because of domestic violence)

You can also get Colorado Works benefits if you are a member of an Indian Tribe, but only if you do not get benefits under a Tribal Family Assistance Plan.

Learn more about who can get Colorado Works.

Colorado Works defines a family (officially called an "Assistance Unit") as one or two parents (or other caregivers) living with their child or children under 18. If your child is 18 years old, they still qualify as long as they are in school full time and will be graduating before they are 19. A family can include biological kids, step kids, adopted kids, and children of relatives. Learn more about who Colorado Works includes as part of your family.

Colorado Works looks at your income when deciding if you qualify for benefits, but there is no limit on the amount of resources you have. Learn more about who can get Colorado Works benefits.

There’s a limit to how much income you can have and still qualify for Colorado Works. The limit is called a Need Standard, which is based on your family size. The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) lists the need standards for different family situations.

To decide if you can get benefits, Colorado Works:

  1. Subtracts $90 from the total earned income that you get (or expect to get) during the month you apply.
  2. Adds any unearned income, like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), investment income, or other money you get that isn’t from work.
  3. The total is your countable income for eligibility. If your countable income is less than the Need Standard for your family size, you qualify for Colorado Works benefits.

For example, a family with one parent and one child under 18 can get Colorado Works if their countable income is less than $331, while a family with one parent and two children under 18 qualify if their countable income is less than $421 a month.

Learn more about qualifying for Colorado Works benefits.

The exact amount you get from Colorado Works each month depends on your family situation. For example, a family with one parent, two children, and no income can get up to a maximum of $559 per month from Colorado Works. Make sure you give your caseworker all the information needed to calculate your amount correctly. To calculate your monthly benefit, Colorado Works:

  1. Looks at your earned income and multiplies by 0.33 (or 33% of the total). For example, if you have a job and make $1,000 a month, Colorado Works says you only have $330 in countable income.
  2. Adds in any unearned income you get (like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), unemployment benefits, investment income, or other money you get that isn’t from work) to get your total countable income (one-third of your earned income plus all unearned income).
  3. Figures out the highest Colorado Works benefit your family can get based on your family’s size and living situation. For example, the maximum benefit for a family with one parent and two children) is $559 per month. The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) lists the maximum benefits (grant amounts) for different family situations.
  4. Takes the maximum benefit possible for a family like yours (from step 3) and subtracts your family’s countable income (from step 2), which gives the amount your family gets each month.

Learn more about Colorado Works benefits.

If your need is temporary, your county might offer you a one-time "diversion payment" instead of monthly Colorado Works cash benefits (not all counties offer diversion payments). A diversion payment helps you pay for something specific to help you be able to support yourself and your family, like car repairs (so you can get to your job), buying work clothes or uniforms, paying for a training program, or counseling. You do not have to accept a diversion payment if you would rather get a monthly cash benefit, but a diversion payment does not count against the 60-month Colorado Works limit, and it can be a good option if you only qualify for a small monthly benefit.

If you think a one-time payment might be better for you than monthly benefits, ask your eligibility worker or case manager if your county offers diversion payments.

In addition to your monthly Colorado Works cash benefit, your county may offer you what is called "supportive services" or "special needs payments" to help you and your family become financially stable. This might include things like referrals for housing or counseling, bus passes, school supplies, diapers, or help paying your rent or car insurance. Not every county offers these types of services, and what is offered varies. Mention your specific needs to your eligibility worker when you apply, and to your case manager after you start getting Colorado Works benefits, and ask what type of support might be available. Learn more about Colorado Works benefits.

When you apply for Colorado Works, be sure to tell both your eligibility worker and your case manager if you need help right away. They can tell you if there are other community resources that can help you while you're waiting to be approved for Colorado Works. And if you qualify for Colorado Works, you might also get SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) benefits, which may start sooner than Colorado Works. Learn more about SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) and Colorado Works.

If you earn money at work, the Colorado Works program is designed so that your benefit never goes down by as much money as you make. That means that you’ll always be better off if you have a job. Learn more about working with Colorado Works.

Most people get their Colorado Works monthly payments through an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, but you can ask to get your payments on a KeyBank debit card or by direct deposit to your bank account. Read more about Understanding Your Colorado Works Benefits.

If you get Colorado Works and are considered "work eligible," you and your case manager work together to create an Individualized Plan that lists everything you need to become more financially stable. It should include:

  • Everything you agree to do while getting Colorado Works benefits, and
  • Everything the county agrees to do to help you.

You need to work with your case manager to make sure your plan meets your needs and includes goals that you can do and want to do. If you have a disability, you and your case manager still create a plan for you, but it could include things like applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if you don't already get those benefits, or getting needed medical care.

Learn more about Individualized Plans.

If your Colorado Works case manager decides that you are "job ready," you are required to do a certain number of hours of "work activities" each week as part of your Individualized Plan. If you don't do the weekly work activities listed in your plan, you might lose your Colorado Works monthly benefits.

Work activities can include doing things like subsidized work, work experience, actively looking for a job, on-the-job training, or community service. If you or someone you care for has a disability, your plan could include activities like applying for disability benefits or getting medical care. Learn more about work activities for Colorado Works.

You can get monthly Colorado Works cash benefits for up to 60 months (five years), as long as you continue to qualify and meet the requirements of your Individualized Plan. Sometimes referred to as the "time clock," the 60 months is a lifetime limit. For example, if you get benefits for 12 months, go off Colorado Works for a while, and then get back on later, you only have 48 months of cash benefits remaining. The time clock runs any month you get a cash benefit from Colorado Works. In some situations (cases of hardship or domestic violence) you might be able to get cash benefits for more than 60 months. Learn more about the Colorado Works time clock.

You can apply for Colorado Works:

No matter which way you apply, you can choose to use this same application to apply for Colorado Works, SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), Health First Colorado (Medicaid), cash assistance, Colorado's Old Age Pension, and other benefits programs.

Learn more about how to apply for Colorado Works.

Note: Due to COVID-19, there may be limits on in-person services. Contact your agency by phone to ask about this.

You can’t be on both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Colorado Works at the same time, so if you’re approved for SSI, you won’t get Colorado Works. However, you may be able to get Colorado Works for other members of your family who aren’t receiving SSI. Apply and ask your caseworker for more information.

You might be able to get both Colorado Works and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), depending on how much (or little) you get from SSDI. If you get SSDI, it will be counted as unearned income by Colorado Works.

Learn more