Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF)

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TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. It is a federally funded grant program that provides states the ability to design and administer assistance to families in need. Congress created TANF through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which replaced the 1935 cash welfare AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children).

States May Use TANF Funds To Meet Any Of The Goals Set For The Program:

  1. Assist low-income families so children can be taken care of in their own homes or in homes of relatives.
  2. Lower dependence of TANF government benefits by assisting in job and marriage preparation.
  3. Preventing and reducing the frequency of out of wedlock pregnancies.
  4. Aid in the development and formation of families with two parents.

While states have flexibility in how they decide to spend their grant funds, they must still be consistent with the purpose of the law. The goal is to offer relief to people in need by providing financial assistance for childcare, early education and job opportunities lowering the household’s dependance on TANF by assisting in self-sufficiency.

Who Can Qualify For TANF?

Low-income single parents with children, women in the later stages of pregnancy, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, or other relatives taking care of related children will generally qualify. There are some cases where “intact families” (both parents in a home) may receive benefits. This is an option if one parent is unemployed for a period of time or disabled.

Other benefits recipients may also qualify for provided by The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program:

  • WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) This program is intended provide assistance for women, infants and children in need of supplemental nutrition, health care referrals, nutrition education. Eligibility qualifications are for low-income women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or postpartum. It may also be given to children age five and under who are at risk of malnutrition.
  • SNAP Benefits are for low-income families who are in need of groceries. Benefits are transferred through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card and be used like a debit card for the purchase eligible nutrition in accepted retail food stores.

TANF Eligibility

  • There is no federal definition of what is considered “needy.” Each state designs a test to decipher whether a family is in need and then defines the criteria eligibility. Typically, states limit entry to the cash assistance program to families with only a fraction of poverty-level income.
  • A family’s circumstances are taken into account when determining eligibility to receive TANF Cash and the number of benefits a family may receive. TANF cash assistance is a need- tested benefit and each state has its own rules in determining the types of income and expenses that need to be tested.
  • Common factors that affect family financial needs: The size of the family, income, assets, and cost of living (expenses).
  • TANF Cash Flow Assistance Federal law limits eligibility of TANF to needy families with dependent children. Dependent children are under the age of 18. A person the age of 18 can be considered dependent they are a full-time student in a secondary school.
  • Federal law forbid states from using TANF funds for families with an adult who has received assistance for more than 60 months or teen parents not living in a supervised setting. However, states will provide exceptions for some families who meet a certain criteria and continue to allow assistance to the children even if the parent reaches the time limit.
  • Federal law bars states from using federal TANF funds to aid legal immigrants. Exceptions are made if the person has have lived in the United States for a minimum of five years.
  • United States citizens that are children, can receive benefits even if their parents have non-citizenship.

TANF’s Work Requirements

To receive the benefits of TANF, states must require recipients to engage in work activities. If an individual fails to fulfill the requirement, then benefits can be terminated.

There are multiple categories of work activities that qualify to meet the working requirements:

  1. Employment that is unsubsidized (not funded) by the federal government.
  2. Subsidized private-sect or employment.
  3. Subsidized public-sector employment.
  4. Work experience.
  5. Community service programs.
  6. Vocational educational training (limited to 12 months).
  7. On-the-job training.
  8. Providing childcare services for an individual working in a community service program.
  9. Job search and job search readiness assistance.
  10. Job skills training related to employment.
  11. Education related to work.
  12. Attendance to secondary school or in enrolled in a course of study for the GED.

Note: The federal government requires single-parent families to work a minimum of 30 hours a week, 20 hours for parents who are single that have a child under the age of 6, and 35 hours for two-parent families.

How To Apply To TANF

Use the State directory TANF website that is administered by the Office of Family Assistance. Note that each state has its own local TANF office. TANF program names can vary between states. This means an applicant will have to contact their state to find out the local program name to gain access to the application.

Each program requirements are set up at the state level. All state’s will require an applicant to be a resident of the state they are applying in and US citizen or eligible non-citizen.

Once an application is submitted, the office that handles the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program will review the case and decide whether the applicant meets the program requirements.

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