Colorado Works

Understanding Your Benefits

Colorado Works Cash Benefits

If you qualify for Colorado Works, you’ll get a monthly cash benefit for up to 60 months (five years), as long as you continue to qualify and meet the requirements of your Individualized Plan, which is explained on the next page.

If your need is temporary, some counties might offer you a one-time "diversion payment" instead of monthly cash benefits. A diversion payment helps you pay for something specific to help you be able to support yourself and your family, and does not count against the 60-month limit.

The Colorado Works "time clock"

Sometimes refered to as "the time clock," the 60-month limit for Colorado Works is a lifetime limit. This means that if you get benefits for 12 months, go off Colorado Works for awhile, 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. There are some exemptions to the 60-month limit, for cases of hardship or domestic violence. Diversion payments or services to help you work (like paying for training or child care) do not count against your time clock.

Your Benefit Amount

If you qualify for Colorado Works, the amount you get each month depends on the size of your household, who counts as a member of your family (officially called an Assistance Unit), and whether you have any earned or unearned income. The more income you have, the lower your Colorado Works benefit will be. However, not all of your income is counted. To calculate your monthly benefit, Colorado Works:

  1. Looks at your earned income and multiplies by 0.33 (or 33% of the total). This means they don't count 67% of what you earn. 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 benefit (grant amount) 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.

Kaylee is a single mother of two. She gets $200 per month in unearned income. All of her income is countable, because she doesn't work. That means her family gets:

$559 maximum benefit – $200 countable income = $359 per month in Colorado Works benefits

Kaylee's total monthly income is:

$200 (her unearned income) + $359 (Colorado Works benefits) = $559

Jocelyn is also a single mother of two. She has a part-time job where she makes $500 per month. Unlike Kaylee, Jocelyn has no unearned income. Because she works, not all of her income is counted by the Colorado Works program. Her countable income is:

$500 (her earned income) × 0.33 = $165

With $165 in countable income, her family gets:

$559 maximum benefit – $165 in countable income = $394 per month in Colorado Works benefits

This means that Jocelyn's total income is:

$500 (from her job) + $394 (Colorado Works benefits) = $894

Thanks to working, Jocelyn has more total income than Kaylee does, and also gets more in Colorado Works benefits.

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 Colorado Works and work.

Diversion Payments

If your need for help is temporary, in some counties your eligibility worker may offer you a one-time diversion payment instead of monthly cash benefits, especially if the amount you would get each month is fairly small. (Not all counties offer diversion payments.) If you accept a diversion payment, you can't re-apply for Colorado Works monthly cash benefits for a certain period of time (usually a specific number of months).

A diversion payment pays for things that help you support yourself and your family, like car repairs or car insurance (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 payment. 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.

Supportive Services

In addition to a monthly cash benefit, your county might offer "supportive services" or "special needs payments" to help you find and keep a job that will support you and your family. This might include:

  • Referrals for housing, drug or alcohol treatment, or mental health counseling
  • Bus passes
  • School supplies
  • Work clothes
  • Diapers
  • Help paying for car repairs, car insurance, or buying a car
  • Extra cash on top of your basic monthly cash benefit

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.

Child care

Be sure to tell your eligibility worker and your case manager if you need child care for a child (or children) 13 or younger. Some counties have a waiting list for the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program, but you can get into the program more quickly if you get a referral through Colorado Works.

Getting Your Colorado Works Benefits

After your eligibility appointment, you are mailed a notice telling you if you will get benefits and how much you’ll get. 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.

When you get monthly Colorado Works benefits, you must work with your case manger to create an Individualized Plan, and follow the steps in your plan to become more financially stable. Learn more about Individualized Plans, and working with Colorado Works.

Learn more