What to Know About TANF Support

It’s hard for plenty of people to keep up with everyday expenses like housing, groceries, and more. Families that have children can have an even harder time with these bills. The government understands that this can be a problem for those dealing with tough times in America. That is why they have created support opportunities that aim to help those in need. One specific opportunity is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Understanding Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Even though TANF is a program available thanks to the federal government, it is actually the states that have the responsibility of running the program. TANF is meant to provide funds to states for them to administer and manage TANF. This opportunity can provide roughly $16.5 billion to states and U.S. territories. There may also be opportunities for TANF assistance in tribal lands! 

The aim of this program is to support families with children to reach the goal of economic self-sufficiency. That’s why states that receive funding from the government use it to provide support to recipients. This includes providing cash assistance payments every month to eligible families. Besides monthly cash assistance, TANF can also provide support services. 

What are the Goals of TANF?

We said earlier that the aim of TANF was to help families with children reach economic self-sufficiency. However, there are four broad goals that this program aims to cover:

  • Encourage two-parent households
  • Lower and prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies
  • Give support to qualifying families dealing with hardship so that the children of those families can receive care in their own homes or in the homes of relatives
  • Combat the dependence of parents in need that rely on government assistance through work, job preparation, and marriage.

The Application Process for TANF

Since this is such a helpful program, many families want to receive benefits from this opportunity. If you are interested in learning more about this program or applying, you will need to get in touch with your state’s local TANF office. You can also reach out to your state’s Social Services office. The exact place to get more information on the TANF program will vary, depending on the state that you live in. Regardless of the state, the application is free! That means it doesn’t hurt to see if you could benefit. 

TANF Eligibility

It’s important to keep in mind that the specific eligibility criteria will vary by state. Each state has the flexibility to set program guidelines. However, there are some general guidelines that states will consider when determining whether or not an applicant qualifies. These guidelines include:

  • Be unemployed or underemployed
  • Have a low income
  • Have children in your family (or be pregnant)

There also may be criteria that automatically disqualify an applicant. For more information on what that would be, you would need to get in touch with your state. 

Work Requirements for TANF

Even though the government lets states have the freedom to determine guidelines around this program, they must still work with federal requirements. One federal requirement is making sure recipients of the program are working enough. The government can enforce its work requirement guideline by making sure the states are meeting Work Participation Rate (WPR) goals. States that do not meet these goals could face penalties!

The WPR looks at how much work is done by work-eligible beneficiaries under TANF. There are two measurements that are important to keep in consideration with work requirements. The two measurements are:

  • All-families rate
  • Two-parent families rate

States will need to meet requirements around both of these rates. For the all-families rate, a state must have 50% of families that receive cash assistance from TANF take part in a work activity for a minimum of 30 hours a week. This number would be 20 hours a week for single parents that have children younger than six years old. For the two-parent families rate, a state must have 90% of two-parent families take part in a work activity for typically 35 hours a week. 

It’s important to keep in mind that work requirements are a big part of TANF. That’s because, in order for families to reach economic self-sufficiency, parents of families will need to work! However, there may be exceptions to the work requirements. It will vary by state. For example, Pennsylvania residents can be exempt from work requirements in at least one of the following conditions:

  • The applicant is taking care of a child that is at most one year old
  • Those that are at most 22 years old as long as they are in school
  • Applicants that are the caretaker of a dependent with a disability

However, those that do not meet exemption criteria for their state but refuse to work will likely find themselves cut off from receiving benefits. This could lead to a “full family sanction.” That means that even if the parent is the one who chooses not to work, the entire family will no longer receive TANF benefits. 

Alternatives to Consider

Besides TANF, there may be other support opportunities that can help your family. Some other popular assistance options include:

  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)
  • Public Housing
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Lifeline Program
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Bottom Line

Countless families find themselves in need of extra support, especially during times of hardship. The government understands that there are families out there that could use some help which is why they have support opportunities that may be able to assist. One specific support opportunity is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Through this program, the government will provide funding to states to operate their own version of the program. 

That means the specific programs will vary by location. However, regardless of where you live, the program can provide monthly cash assistance and other supportive services. If you want to benefit from this program, you will need to reach out to your state’s TANF office or Social Services office. They will be able to provide you with details about the program and help you with the application process. Keep in mind that these applications are free, so you don’t face any risk when applying. This program may be a great opportunity to support your family!