California Common Sense released a brief report called “California Welfare Overpayments: Fraud, Internal Errors, and Limited Investigation.” The report finds $848 million in outstanding CalWORKs overpayments to beneficiaries, half of all identified overpayments recovered, and administrative error costs on the rise.

The California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) provides temporary cash assistance, welfare-to-work, and other services to eligible low-income families with children. This analysis examines the program’s benefit overpayment trends to determine how frequently beneficiaries and the program’s administration cause errors, as well as how costly those errors are.

While individual errors may seem insignificant, taken together, they prove costly to the system, taxpayers, and the thousands of additional cases they could have funded instead.

For the better part of a decade, just as unemployment was rising and more families sought benefits, California’s social services absorbed cuts as the state diverted limited funds elsewhere. We found that those deep budget cuts had very real unintended consequences: costly administrative errors and a systematic lack of oversight at CalWORKs.

The report’s findings include the following:

To view the report online, visit