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Work First Benefits Program

North Carolina’s Work First Program is based on the premise that parents have a responsibility to support themselves and their children.  Through Work First, parents can get short-term training and other services to help them become employed and self-sufficient.  However, the responsibility is theirs, and most families have two years to move off Work First.  Work First emphasizes three strategies: Diversion, Work and Job Retention.  Work First is also provided for eligible children whose caretaker is not eligible for benefits themselves.  Work First provides monthly financial assistance to help in meeting the basic needs of families with children such as food, shelter, etc.

The four goals of Work First are to:

  • Assist families so that children can be cared for in their own home
  • Reduce the dependency of parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage
  • Prevent out of wedlock pregnancies
  • Encourage the formation and maintenance of two parent families

To accomplish these important objectives, county Work First programs are required to provide the following:

  • Ensure that adequate employment and training efforts and the necessary supportive services are available to all families, especially those subject to time-limited benefits;
  • Provide all families with access to a basic level of employment services;
  • Provide services to families with children living with relatives, children of SSI and SSDI parents, and children of undocumented immigrants.  These services should be focused on assisting families with maintaining safety, permanency and well being;
  • Reinforce the importance of personal responsibility and employment during all agency contacts with a family;
  • Serve all work eligible participants;
  • Ensure that active participation is intensive, short-term, and directed toward immediate employment; and
  • Meet or exceed the county’s fair-share of the State-wide Work First work participation rate.


  • Federal lifetime limit of 60 cumulative months during which welfare benefits may be received by parents.
  • North Carolina limits receipt of benefits to 24 cumulative months, and then terminates benefits for 36 months before the family can receive again.
  • Children, with caretakers other than parents, can receive benefits through the month of their 18th birthday.
  • Single parents and Caretakers must cooperate with Child Support regarding the absent parent(s).
  • Parents must cooperate and work with their Work First Employment Counselor to meet all requirements of their Mutual Responsibility Plan.

Families must be given the opportunity to become independent. Under The Work First Program, benefits are intended to be short term. Families are expected to work actively toward and share in the responsibility of becoming self-sufficient.

Work First consists of two components -- Cash and Employment Services

To receive cash benefits, a family must meet established criteria, there must be an eligible deprived child (under 18) in the home with the person who qualifies as a caretaker(some level of Kinship, Legal Custody or Guardianship), and income and resource limits must be met. A family receiving Work First Benefits (Cash Benefits) is allowed $3,000 in resources. All resources available, or that can be made available, to the family are counted. A family must meet an income test to receive Work First Benefits. To encourage work and make work pay, family members who work are allowed special work-related deductions.

Employment Services are specially designed to help families get and maintain a job. Employment Services should assist each family to accomplish the following:

  • Increase personal responsibility
  • Remove barriers to employment
  • Secure employment   
  • Reduce long-term dependence on welfare programs


Short Term Services and Benefits

 Benefit Diversion

 A one-time payment of up to a Maximum of 3 Months of Work First Benefits 

Receive Medicaid for the months in the Benefits Diversion Period

 Cash payment alternative to the traditional Work First Benefits check.

Referrals to Child Support, Child Care Assistance, and other community and agency resources.

Emergency Assistance

Designed to assist with families’ sporadic emergency needs, such as utility cut-off or an eviction notice.

Limited to Nonrecurring, short-term benefits designed to deal with a specific episode of need.

Not intended to meet recurring or ongoing needs.

Not extending beyond four months.

Crisis Intervention Program

Financial assistance with utility bill-disconnect notices, heating & cooling resources.

Assessment of the crisis situation & ability to maintain future coverage.

Assistance not to exceed $600.00 per household per fiscal year.

 Total household countable income equal or less than 150% of current poverty level. Must contain a U.S. Citizen or an eligible alien. Household must be in a crisis situation as determined by the State.

 The above services require a face to face Interview at the local DSS Agency located at 1200 Spartanburg Hwy Suite 300, Hendersonville NC 28792.  Agency is open Monday through Friday 8:00am to 4:30pm.  828 697-5500