Refugee Assistance Program - Cash Assistance
DSHS Home Page
Search     for:

DSHS Home    Acronyms    Revisions    WAC Number Index    Site Map    WCCC

Refugee Assistance Program - Cash Assistance

Revised December 31, 2013

Purpose: This section describes the general eligibility requirements for client to receive refugee cash assistance benefits.

WAC 388-466-0120Refugee cash assistance (RCA)

Refugee cash assistance (RCA).

WAC 388-466-0120

WAC 388-466-0120

Effective February 23, 2013

WAC 388-466-0120 Refugee cash assistance (RCA)

1.   Who can apply for refugee cash assistance (RCA)?
Anyone can apply to the department of social and health services (DSHS) for refugee cash assistance and have their eligibility determined within thirty days.

2.   How do I know if I qualify for RCA?
You may be eligible for RCA if you meet all of the following conditions:

a.   You have resided in the United States for less than eight months;

b.   You meet the immigration status requirements of WAC 388-466-0005;

c.   You meet the income and resource requirements under chapters 388-450 and 388-470 WAC;

d.   You meet the work and training requirements of WAC 388-466-0150; and

e.   You provide the name of the voluntary agency (VOLAG) which helped bring you to this country.

3.   What are the other reasons for not being eligible for RCA?
You may not be able to get RCA if you:

a.   Are eligible for temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI); or

b.   Have been denied TANF due to your refusal to meet TANF eligibility requirements; or

c.   Are employable and have voluntarily quit or refused to accept a bona fide offer of employment within thirty consecutive days immediately prior to your application for RCA; or

d.   Are a full-time student in a college or university.

4.   If I am an asylee, what date will be used as an entry date?
If you are an asylee, your entry date will be the date that your asylum status is granted. For example: You entered the United States on December 1, 1999 as a tourist, then applied for asylum on April 1, 2000, interviewed with the asylum office on July 1, 2000 and were granted asylum on September 1, 2000. Your entry date is September 1, 2000. On September 1, 2000, you may be eligible for refugee cash assistance.

5.   If I am a victim of human trafficking, what kind of documentation do I need to provide to be eligible for RCA?

You are eligible for RCA to the same extend as a refugee if you are:

a.   An adult victim, eighteen years of age or older, you provide the original certification letter from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and you meet eligibility requirements in subsections (2)(c) and (d) of this section. You do not have to provide any other documentation of your immigration status. Your entry date will be the date on your certification letter;

b.   A child victim under the age of eighteen, in which case you do not need to be certified. DHHS issues a special letter for children. Children also have to meet income eligibility requirement;

c.   A family member of a certified victim of human trafficking, you have a T-2, T-3, T-4, or T-5 Visa (Derivative T-Visas), and you meet the eligibility requirements in subsections (2) (c) and (d) of this section.

6.   Does getting a onetime cash grant from a voluntary agency (VOLAG) affect my eligibility for RCA?
No. In determining your eligibility for RCA DSHS does not count a onetime resettlement cash grant provided to you by your VOLAG.

7.   What is the effective date of my eligibility for RCA?
The date DSHS has sufficient information to make eligibility decision is the date your RCA begins.

8.   When does my RCA end?

a.   Your RCA ends on the last day of the eighth month starting with the month of your arrival to the United States . Count the eight months from the first day of the month of your entry into the United States . For example, if you entered the United States on May 28, 2000, May is your first month and December 2000 is your last month of RCA.

b.    If you get a job, your income will affect your RCA based on the TANF rules (chapter 388-450 WAC). If you earn more than is allowed by WAC 388-478-0035, you are no longer eligible for RCA.

9.   Are there other reasons why RCA may end?
Your RCA also ends if:

a.   You move out of Washington state;

b.   Your unearned income and/or resources go over the maximum limit (WAC 388-466-0140); or

c.   You, without good cause, refuse to meet refugee employment and training requirements (WAC 388-466-0150).

10. Will my spouse be eligible for RCA, if he/she arrives in the U.S. after me?
When your spouse arrives in the United States , DSHS determines his/her eligibility for RCA and/or other income assistance programs.

a.   Your spouse may be eligible for up to eight months of RCA based on his/her date of arrival into the United States.

b.   If you live together you and your spouse are part of the same assistance unit and your spouse's eligibility for RCA is determined based on you and your spouse's combined income and resources (WAC 388-466-0140).  

11. Can I get additional money in an emergency?
If you have an emergency and need a cash payment to get or keep your housing or utilities, you may apply for the DSHS program called additional requirements for emergent needs (AREN). To receive AREN, you must meet the requirements in WAC 388-436-0002.

12. What can I do if I disagree with a decision or action that has been taken by DSHS on my case?
If you disagree with a decision or action taken on your case by the department, you have the right to request a review of your case or an administrative hearing (WAC 388-02-0090 ). Your request must be made within ninety days of the decision or action.


This is a reprint of the official rule as published by the Office of the Code Reviser. If there are previous versions of this rule, they can be found using the Legislative Search page.


*** As a result of implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), this clarifying page may no longer be effective for medical coverage applications received on or after 10/01/2013. Please see the ACA Transition Plan for more information. Clients under 65 years of age who need to apply for medical coverage on or after 10/01/2013 should be referred to Washington Healthplanfinder. Applications for medical coverage for households where all members are 65 years of age and older should be referred to Washington Connection. ***



For more information on RCA priority requirements see SUMMARY, Applicants for RCA, if otherwise eligible, can not be denied benefits or services because they have not yet received a social security number (SSN). Social Security Administration procedures often prohibit asylees and Cuban and Haitian entrants from applying and receiving SSN for several months after they received their status and became eligible for RCA.

RCA recipients with earnings have the same 50% earned income disregards as TANF clients.

Matching Grant Program Recipients.  Refugees and similarly classified immigrants agree not to apply for ongoing cash assistance from RCA or TANF so they can get services through the Matching Grant program.  The Matching Grant program is an employment and training program funded by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and administered by voluntary refugee resettlement agencies (VOLAGs).  The VOLAG provides cash assistance and employment services designed to find the Matching Grant participant a job within the immigrant's first four months in the US.  In order to qualify for the program, the participant must agree they will not apply for other ongoing cash assistance benefits. However, the participant should still be eligible for Basic Food. Note that one-time cash payments from a VOLAG are not part of the Matching Grant Program.

Special Immigrants from Iraq or Afghanistan who were granted Special Immigrant status under section 101 (a)(27) of the INA are qualified aliens and are eligible for Refugee Cash assistance to the same extend and for the same time period as refugees. Their eligibility period starts from the date of entry into the United States or, if it occurred after the U.S. entry, the date the Special Immigrant status was granted as indicated on I-551 (green card).  For more information on documentation, Immigration Status codes, benefit eligibility and step-by-step process, please see desk aid Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrants Benefits.

If you have any questions regarding eligibility or on how to process a case, please contact Tom Berry or Olga Walker, in the CSD Office of Programs and Policy.

Tom (360) 725-4617 or by e-mail at

Olga (360) 725-4641 or by e-mail at


  1. Determine eligibility for TANF before determining eligibility for RCA.
  2. Complete a program change when a change of circumstances makes a RCA recipient eligible for TANF (for example, a recipient with no other dependents becomes eligible for TANF because she is in her third trimester of pregnancy).
  3. Refer all refugees who are age 65 or older, blind or disabled to SSI facilitator for help with application to Social Security Administration for SSI benefits.
    1. For applicants, authorize RCA once the application for SSI is verified.
    2. Terminate RCA if necessary and authorize SSI medical when SSI is approved.
  4. Determine eligibility for other cash programs such as CEAP (Consolidated Emergency Assistance Program), or General Assistance program when RCA eligibility ends due to the expiration of the eight-month time limit.
  5. Matching Grant Program Recipients. 

If an applicant indicates they are receiving benefits through the Matching Grant program, verify the amount of cash the applicant receives and budget it toward their Basic Food request.

If the Matching Grant recipient decides to apply for RCA or TANF:

a. Determine the applicant’s eligibility using standard application processing procedures; and

b. Notify the VOLAG immediately that the client is requesting cash assistance through a DSHS-administered program.

Modification Date: December 31, 2013