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Public Benefits for You and Your Family

Authored By: Legal Aid Services of Oregon LSC Funded
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Need a Hand? You May Qualify for Government Benefits

Most all of us pay taxes. In nearly all cases, money is taken out of every paycheck we receive. That money goes to the local, state and federal government to provide services to us as residents. This page talks about some of the public benefits you may qualify to receive.

Some benefits are available to you whether or not you have legal status in this country. To receive other benefits you have to be a citizen of the US or have a green card. Still others require you to have earned 40 quarters (roughly about 10 years) of wages that have been reported to the Social Security Administration by your employer. The 40 quarters can include your work and, in some cases, that of your spouse and your parents. Many (though not all) of the programs listed on this page are available only to people who have low incomes.

Help For All

These are some of the benefits that everyone can use, regardless of immigration status:

1. Fire and Police Protection

2. Emergency medical coverage

3. Worker's Compensation

4. Emergency food and shelter

5. Some Emergency help with rent, other bills (electric, water, etc.)

6. Migrant Head Start children's education programs

Primary Public Benefits Programs in Oregon

Note: You can apply for some of these benefits for your children or other people in your household if they meet the immigration requirements, even if you do not. For example, this could help you if your have children who are U.S. citizens born in this country.



Immigration Requirements

Income Requirements

Other Comments

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

Cash assistance to pay expenses. Monthly benefit amount starts at $310 and increases for more family members.

Citizens, lawful permanent residents, not temporary residents; and all immigrants who are survivors of or at risk of domestic violence

No or very low income. The more people in your family the more income you can have and still qualify.

Apply at the Community Human Services Division (CHS) ("welfare" office).

Retention Payments

Pay basic living and job related expenses so you can keep your job.

Same as for TANF

No income requirements

Apply at CHS; More info. at 1-800-723-3638

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ("SNAP")

Recipients use an electronic benefits card (Oregon Trail Card) at retailers to purchase food. Benefits starts as low as $10/mo. And increase based on income and other factors.

If not a Citizen:

Legal Permanent Resident (with "Green Card") or domestic violence survivor, who:

· Has "40 quarters"; or

· Gets disability benefits; or

· Was lawfully residing in the U.S. on 8/22/96 and was 65 or older at that time or is now under 18.

· Plus other limited categories

The more people in your family, the more income you can have and still qualify.

Low income, but Income limit is higher for food stamps than for other benefits like TANF or SSI

Apply at CHS.

Migrant and seasonal farm workers are entitled to benefits within 7 days of application.

More info. at

Oregon Health Plan (OHP)

Health care coverage

If not Citizen:

· Lawful permanent resident (LPR with green card) who:

· Resides in US since 8/22/96; or

· Has "40 quarters"; or

· Other limited circumstances;

· Individuals receiving TANF or SSI benefits.

* As of July 1, 2002, LPRs do not qualify for first 5 years after entering the U.S.

Low income. The more people in your family, the more income you can have and still qualify.

Children under 19 and pregnant women can have higher family incomes than other adults and still get this benefit.

Apply at CHS or call 1-800-359-9517 for mail-in application.


Citizen Alien Waived Emergency Medical (CAWEM)

Can get a "medical card" which will cover emergency medical conditions, labor and delivery (and those children born will qualify for OHP).

No immigration restrictions

Low income; Same as Oregon Health Plan income limits.

Contact local CHS office.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Cash benefits to support yourself and/or your family. Maximum of $545/month for single person; $817 for a couple.

If not a Citizen:

Legal Permanent Resident (with "green card"):

· with "40 quarters"; or
· receiving SSI on 8/22/96; or
· lawfully residing in U.S. on that date and now disabled;
· other limited categories

Must have "countable income" less than $545/mo. (single) or $817/mo. (couple).

Apply at the Social Security Office or by calling 1-800-772-1213

Employment Related Day Care (ERDC)

Day care subsidy for working parents paid directly to day care provider

No immigration restrictions

Income limits Depend on family size or "need group"

Apply at CHS office.

"40 quarters": If you have enough wages reported to Social Security you will get a "quarter." You can earn a maximum of 4 quarters in a year. To get 40 quarters you have to work a minimum of 10 years in this country.


Last Review and Update: Jun 21, 2011