Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF)

What is TANF?

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant provides federal funding to states. In 2019, this block grant allocated $30.9 billion to states in combined federal TANF ($16.2 billion) and state MOE ($14.7 billion).

The main initiative of this grant program is funding for cash welfare for needy families with children. These families comply with federal requirements about work and time limits for families receiving assistance.

TANF is not exclusive when it comes to families receiving benefits. This program can be one of many benefits and services that the Federal law allows to be provided to low-income families with children. The goals of this program is keeping families together and the program strives to meet these four initiative when considering the distribution of funds:

1. To allow the family to live in their home, or the home of a relative by providing cash support.

2. To end the dependency of needy parents on government benefits through work, job preparation, and marriage.

3. To reduce the amount of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

4. Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

Qualifications & Eligibility

States have broad discretion to determine eligibility for TANF cash assistance and a range of services. A state can set different eligibility limits for different TANF programs or services; for example, it can limit TANF cash assistance to very poor families while providing TANF-funded child care or transportation assistance to working families with somewhat higher incomes.

With regard to cash assistance programs, each state makes its own policy choices about criteria such as: benefit levels, how to determine financial need, work-related activities required of applicants and recipients, rules imposed for failure to comply, and time restraints.

As with any government-funded program there are a few limitations regarding eligibility and the duration of the program.

  1. Time – states cannot provide cash assistance from federal TANF funds for more than 60 months to a family that includes an adult recipient; however, states can exceed the 60-month limit for up to 20 percent of their caseload based on hardship. 
  2. Immigrant Eligibility – Federal law bans states from using federal TANF dollars to assist most legal immigrants. If they have been in the United States for a minimum of five years they may be considered. U.S. citizen children are eligible for TANF benefits and services even if they have non-citizen immigrant parents regardless of the parents eligibility.
  3. Work Requirements – this varies on a state by state basis, review what specific TANF qualifications are in place for your state.

If you have an injury or illness that prevents you from working a full-time job, you could receive up to $3,148 per month in financial assistance from the Federal Government. To see how much you could qualify to receive, please complete this short 30 second form.

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