To receive welfare, applicants are first required to fill out a form that can be obtained at state welfare offices. The filled form is returned to the welfare officer. The next step in the process involves an interview at the welfare office, at home or over the phone. A determination is then made after a certain period of time, usually 30 days.
The level of assistance is generally based on income and the number of people in an applicant's household. The term "welfare" actually refers to a number of government assistance programs with eligibility requirements that vary by jurisdiction and specific program. These include the Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, HUD home programs, Food Stamps and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which was formerly known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Each program has its eligibility requirements and assistance limits.
In general, heads of households who receive welfare have to find a job within two years, and help does not extend beyond five years. Non-citizens who are in the United States legally may be eligible for assistance under certain circumstances. Benefits such as food stamp credits, cash and select medical benefits are provided through an electronic system that uses plastic cards and unique identification numbers. Some benefits are paid directly to a service provider.