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Temporary Assistance (TANF)

The TANF Program - Are You Eligible?

If you are a parent or are expecting a child and need financial assistance, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) may be able to help you.

In 1996, welfare was changed to end open-ended entitlements and to create a block grant that allowed states to design their own programs but to provide for cash assistance to needy families with work requirements. There was also a time limit placed on the benefits program of five years for recipients.

Each state can use their TANF block grants any way they want as long as they fulfill the purpose of the grant. TANF dollars must be spent on families that include a child or a mother that is expecting a child. Each state sets an income eligiblity threshold to determine if your family is eligible for TANF cash assistance.

The TANF Block Grant must be used to:

1. Provide assistance to needy families so children can be cared for in their own home.

2. Reduce dependency on the TANF program by promoting preparation for a job.

3. Prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

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

TANF work requirements:

1. Non-exempt adult recipients of TANF benefits that are not working must participate in community service two months after they start getting benefits. States may opt-out of this requirement.

2. Adults are required to participate in work activities two years after they start receiving TANF assistance.

3. States may exempt parents with children under the age of 1 from work requirements.

4. States may not penalize parents with children under the age of 6 for not working if child care is not available.

Restrictions on use of TANF money:

1. Assistance cannot be given to families that have already received TANF funds for a total of 60 months. States can set time limits shorter than 5 years, and they can also exempt up to 20% of their yearly caseload from the 5 year limit.

2. Teen parents that are unmarried must stay in school and live at home or in an adult-supervised situation.

3. If you are ever convicted of a drug-related felony, you are banned from the TANF program and the Food Stamp Program for life. States can limit or opt-out of the ban if they want.

4. If you do not cooperate with child support enforcement requirements including establishment of paternity you may get a reduced benefit or lose the benefit.

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