Colorado Works

Who Can Get Colorado Works Benefits


To help families who can't pay for their basic needs like food, clothing, and rent, Colorado Works provides:

  1. Cash benefits, and
  2. Other benefits that help families become more financially stable.

A family is defined 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.

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 (see details below)
  • 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, and
  • 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.

You cannot get Colorado Works if you:

  • Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Colorado Old Age Pension benefits
  • Are an undocumented immigrant
  • Have an adult in your household taking part in a strike
  • Fail to report (without good cause) when your child or children are expected to be out of your home for more than 45 days
  • Lied about where you live to get Colorado Works benefits at the same time as you get TANF benefits in another state
  • Are a fleeing felon or a parole or probation violator
  • Were convicted of a drug-related felony before July 1, 1997 (unless you are participating in a drug rehab program or other steps to rehabilitation)

Note: Even if you can't get Colorado Works for any of these reasons, other members of your family (including your children) may be able to get Colorado Works benefits, so it can still be a good idea to apply.

How Colorado Works Counts Your Family

Officially, Colorado Works calls a family an Assistance Unit (AU), and doesn't always include every family member when deciding if you can get cash benefits and how much. For example, if someone in your family gets SSI or Colorado OAP benefits, they aren't counted as part of your Assistance Unit.

In some cases, an Assistance Unit can be "child-only." For example, if you have a disability and get SSI benefits, your 8-year-old daughter might qualify for Colorado Works on a child-only basis.

Note: To keep things as simple as possible, from now on we always call an Assistance Unit a family.

After the county decides who counts as part of your family for Colorado Works, it looks at your income.

How Colorado Works Counts Your Family's Income

Income is money you get from work, benefits, or other sources. There’s a limit to how much income you can have and still qualify for Colorado Works. The limit is called a Need Standard and it is based on who is counted as part of your family. The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) lists the Need Standards for different family situations.

To see 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 are eligible for Colorado Works.

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 qualifies if their countable income is less than $421 a month.


Marie and Frank have a daughter, age eight. Frank has a disability, and gets SSI benefits of $914 a month, so he is not eligible for Colorado Works and his income doesn't count. Marie and her daughter are considered a family (Assistance Unit) of two. Marie works part-time and earns $381 a month. They have no other income, so the family's total income is $381. After subtracting $90, their total countable income is $291. The Need Standard for a family with one parent and one child is $331, so they qualify for Colorado Works.

After Colorado Works decides you are eligible for benefits, they look at your income again and use a different method to decide how much money you can get each month. Learn more about how Colorado Works calculates your benefit amount.

Learn more