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TANF Benefits

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (or TANF) is a block grant program to help move recipients into work and turn welfare into a program of temporary assistance.  Under the welfare reform legislation of 1996, TANF replaced the old welfare programs known as the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) program, and the Emergency Assistance (EA) program.

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 reauthorized the TANF program through fiscal year 2010. Its renewed focus was on work, program integrity, and strengthening families through promotion of healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program became the TANF Bureau within the Office of Family Assistance in May 2006.

These TANF federal funds cover benefits and services targeted to needy families:

  1. TANF Block Grant - $16.5 billion is available to States, Territories, and Tribes through the TANF block grant.
  2. Supplemental Grants - $319 million is available to 17 States that experienced increases in their populations and/or had low levels of welfare spending per capita.
  3. TANF Contingency Fund - $1.3 billion is available to States that have increased unemployment or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) caseloads as defined in the Social Security Act.
  4. TANF Emergency Fund - Congress created a new TANF Emergency Fund (TANF EF), funded at $5 billion and available to states, territories, and tribes for fiscal years 2009 and 2010. The TANF Emergency Fund provided states 80 percent of the funding for spending increases  for the three categories of expenditures: 1) basic assistance, 2) non-recurrent short-term benefits, and  3) subsidized employment. States created nearly 250,000 adult and youth jobs through the funding. The program expired on September 30, 2010 on schedule.

The purposes of the TANF program as described in section 601 of the Social Security Act are as follows:

  1. To provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives;
  2. To end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage;
  3. To prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies; and
  4. To encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

The qualifying conditions are work requirements that are necessary for the issuance of TANF benefits. (Failure to participate in work requirements can result in a reduction or termination of benefits to the family.)

  1. Recipients (with few exceptions) must work as soon as they are job ready or no later than two years after coming on assistance.
  2. Single parents are required to participate in work activities for at least 30 hours per week. Two-parent families must participate in work activities 35 or 55 hours a week, depending upon circumstances.

Other conditions for the TANF benefits:

  1. States cannot penalize single parents with a child under six for failing to meet work requirements if they cannot find adequate child care.
  2. States must engage a certain percentage of all families and of two-parent families in work activities or face financial penalty.  These required State work participation rates are 50 percent overall and 90 percent for two-parent families;
  3. Families with an adult who has received federally-funded assistance for a total of five years (or less at state option) are not eligible for cash aid under the TANF program.
  4. States may extend assistance beyond 60 months to up to 20 percent of their caseload.  They may also elect to provide assistance to families beyond 60 months using State-only funds or Social Services Block Grant funds.
  5. Unmarried minor parents must participate in educational and training activities and live with a responsible adult or in an adult-supervised setting in order to receive Federal assistance.
  6. States are responsible for assisting in locating adult-supervised settings for teens who cannot live at home.
  7. Federally recognized Indian Tribes may apply directly to HHS to operate a TANF block grant program. Like States, Tribes may use their TANF funding in any manner reasonably calculated to accomplish the purposes of TANF. The Federal government approves tribal plans.

The TANF block grant is administered by state, territorial and tribal agencies. Citizens can make application for TANF at the respective agency administering the program in their community. The federal government does not provide TANF assistance directly to individuals or families.