You may already be aware that millions of households benefit from helpful government assistance each year. The federal government provides programs that can suit a variety of needs. You will find that there are options that can provide monthly cash assistance, affordable healthcare, and much more. Unfortunately there can often be a negative view around government assistance. However, there is nothing wrong with seeking out the help that you need.
Access to basic needs like food, shelter, and healthcare are fundamental rights that should be available to everyone. Nevertheless, many families can find themselves in a spot where they can’t afford these things. If you’re interested in learning more about what type of opportunities are available to you, check out Benefits.gov. This website is a great resource for finding information on thousands of available government programs. If you’re not sure where to begin, the website has a tool called Benefit Finder. Their search engine can recommend helpful programs to you, based on your personal circumstances.
Families that have children may be able to benefit from a variety of support. One program in particular is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This program is specifically designed to help families get back on their feet. In order to know if this program is right for you, you need to know how it works!
How Families Can Benefit from TANF
If you are a low-income family with children, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program can help you. The goal of the program is to help families get to a place where they no longer need government assistance. In order to accomplish this, TANF provides cash assistance and relevant support services. For example, support can include job training and childcare. In addition to those examples, education opportunities may also be given to recipients.
The TANF program was established in 1996 as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Although TANF is a federal program, households that receive these benefits aren’t receiving them directly from the federal government. Instead, state governments receive grant funds to provide benefits, as they see fit, to families. This means that eligibility requirements are up to states to determine. In addition to that, the extent of benefits recipients can get varies by state as well. The program distributes roughly $16.5 billion to participating states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. In addition to that, certain American Indian tribes can also provide TANF through a separate program.
How States Administer TANF Funding To Families
As stated before, states have flexibility in how they use TANF grant funds. However, they must follow certain guidelines set by the federal government. Some states may choose to use most of their funding to give out direct cash assistance to eligible families. Meanwhile others may invest more heavily in valuable support services. Overall the funds are used in a way that promotes the following four objectives of TANF:
- Reduce pregnancies conceived outside of marriage.
- Support children growing up in their own homes or the homes of close relatives.
- Promotion of job preparation, stable work opportunities, education, and marriage.
- Encourage the development and maintenance of two-parent homes.
Understanding TANF Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for TANF, applicants need to satisfy certain income and family requirements. Unfortunately, each state can only receive so much funding. Therefore, state governments want to ensure that the assistance is going towards the most deserving people. You will find that there are additional requirements that recipients need to keep up with, even after being accepted into the program.
The exact eligibility criteria is up to each state to determine. However, there are two general requirements for being able to get TANF benefits. These are:
- In the majority of cases, families must be composed of at least one or more children and/or dependents. The dependents should not be older than 18 years old.
- Make an income that does not exceed state specific guidelines
To apply for TANF benefits, you need to reach out to your state agency that administers TANF. The exact application process varies depending on which state you’re applying in. You can find contact information for your state on this website.
Work Participation Rate Goals
We now have a good understanding that the main goal of TANF is to create independence among families with children. A large part of this is encouraging stable work opportunities. Therefore, states must ensure that recipients are engaged in approved and regular work activities. To maintain federal funding, states must meet established Work Participation Rate (WPR) goals. If states do not need their minimum requirements, they may face penalties.
What is considered as an approved work activity can get a bit complicated.. For example, some categories include normal paid work, community service, and job-skills training. However, not all activities can be considered a full-time activity. For example, education and/or job training don’t typically count as full-time hours. Furthermore, there are limits to how many hours can go towards certain activities, such as job hunting.
Minimum Hours per Week Requirements
To meet their respective WPR goals, there are a minimum number of hours per week that TANF families should be engaging in work activities. The rates are measured differently depending on the household status of the family. There is an all-families rate and a two-parent families rate.
90% of all two-parent families with TANF need to work a combined minimum of 35 hours each week. Whereas, 50% of all-families receiving these benefits need to be working a minimum of 30 hours per week. The work requirements for single-parents with young children under six are understandably lower. These parents are expected to work a minimum of 20 hours each week.
It’s essential for TANF recipients to meet their state’s specific requirements regarding work participation. Failing to meet these goals may result in reduced benefits. Even worse families can be terminated from the program altogether.
Exceptions Can be Made for Work Requirements
While it’s very important for TANF families to maintain a job and work regular hours, there are exceptions made in some situations. Some states have outlined circumstances where an applicant can be exempt from working and still get benefits. In order to provide an example, let’s look at the TANF program administered in the state of Pennsylvania. A household receiving TANF may not need to work if they meet one of the following:
- The applicant is caring for an infant one year or younger
- If they are enrolled in school and under the age of 22 years old
- The applicant is caring for a dependent with a disability
Being a parent is the most important yet one of the hardest jobs in the world. Unfortunately child care is extremely expensive and there is no mandated parental leave for new parents. This can result in particularly tough situations for families. If you’re a parent experiencing financial hardship, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) may be able to help.
The program was established back in the 90’s with a new purpose in mind. The federal government wanted to encourage families to learn skills to support themselves. With this, the goals of the program shifted to focus on things like family values and job preparations. Recipients of TANF receive cash assistance, combined with relevant support services. In order to qualify for this program, households need to meet income requirements. In addition to that, typically only applicants that have dependents younger than 18 (or with disabilities) are approved. TANF works through grant funds that are distributed to state governments. Therefore, both eligibility and the type of benefits recipients can get depend on where they live.
If you’re in need of the type of assistance that TANF can provide, don’t hesitate to get started on an application! It’s completely free to apply, therefore you’ve got nothing to lose. If you find that you’re eligible for TANF, you may also be able to get assistance through other federal programs. To find out what’s out there, you can start by researching options online. Benefits.gov is a great resource for this. Their Benefit Finder tool can even recommend specific programs that might be able to help your situation!