All refugees are eligible for cash and food assistance at the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). They must apply within 7 working days of arrival. Both the general cash assistance and the food stamps are administered through an Electronic Benefits Card (EBT) that works similar to a debit card. 

Caseworkers will fill out an application online before the family goes to the office, and will let you know what services to apply for. Make sure you know whether a family is on Match Grant or not because if they are, they should NOT apply for cash benefits!

1. Before going to DSHS, make sure you and the refugee family bring the following documents: I-94 & stamped Transportation boarding letter OR passport with visa if they are SIV, Social Security receipts, Volunteer agency form, (Match Grant letter if on MG program), and a hard copy of the application. 

2. Locate the nearest DSHS office. If the family is applying for cash assistance, they must go to the office assigned to their zip code. 

3. Children do not need to attend this appointment. If the family is only applying for food assistance, then only one parent needs to come. If applying for cash, all adults need to come to the appointment. 

4. Make sure you have appropriate car seats unless you are aware that the refugee family has them. Contact World Relief if you need to borrow car seats.


1. Check in on the computer screen and click “I want to apply for benefits” and then “I’ve already completed an application.” 

2. Wait for the family's name to be called on the intercom. They will announce what window number or door you need to go to.

3. The family will be interviewed by a DSHS caseworker (DSHS will provide an interpreter if necessary). You are welcome to sit through that with them. With the family's permission, you can also have the caseworker add you as an authorized representative, so you can call DSHS on the family's behalf. Know that the World Relief caseworker will have this status already. Do not leave without a letter stating the family’s benefits!

4. After the interview they should be given an EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card with their food stamps (and possibly cash). There is an EBT window in the lobby.  You may need to help explain to refugee how to use a PIN number for the EBT, which the default is their year of birth. 
5. The EBT card should be active by the end of the day. There is a phone number on the back of the card you can call to check the current status and amount on the card.