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TANF Program Information

Part 1 of 2

Getting Started With TANF
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federally-funded, state administered program which serves families going through hard times. TANF offers cash benefits to eligible families. It has replaced what was formerly known simply as "welfare."

TANF recipients have a child under the age of 18 in the home and have little or no money; furthermore, they have limited access to stable employment. At least 4,000,000 American families or children receive TANF benefits. In this article we will discuss the purpose of TANF, the eligibility requirements, the application process and more.

The US Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families has designated four purposes of TANF.

Provide for needy families so that children can receive care in their own homes.

Promote job preparation, work, and marriage as needed for self-sufficient families.

Prevent and reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

Encourage establishment and maintenance of two-parent families.

In an effort to achieve these goals, TANF has created programs that provide cash benefits, job training, parenting courses, and marriage classes.

TANF recipients are nearly destitute. Applicants are carefully screened by state Human Services or Social Services. The first assessment will check how much money the family has, the value of things the family is paying for or owns, and the amount the family pays for child care or child support. Assets may be limited to as low as a total value of $2000 or less or $8500 or less if a vehicle necessary for transportation to work is included. More specifically, the following eligibility standards are evaluated:

US citizenship or eligible alien status of parent(s)

US citizenship or eligible alien status of children

Earnings: Earning limitations vary from state to state, but may be as little as $98/child or $407 for a family with five children and two parents.

Children who are 18 or younger. Eligible families must have a child under 18 living in the home.

A pregnant woman becomes eligible to apply during the month before her due date.

State residence: Recipients must be residents in the state where they are applying for assistance.

Limitations and Requirements
Because TANF has as an overarching goal to get people off assistance, there is a maximum of 60 months (5 years) of benefits within a lifetime. Distribution of benefits is at the discretion of the states. States can designate shorter periods and eliminate all payments to recipients. Children who receive TANF benefits separate from their parents because they are cared for outside their own home may receive benefits longer than the designated 60 months. Similarly, minors may be eligible to receive benefits after parent benefits have ended.

TANF has requirements for child recipients. Children must stay current on immunization. Children must attend school, and parents/caregivers must participate in school conferences. Parents may be required to take parenting classes. They must follow child support rules. Recipients can expect benefits to be cut off for alcohol or drug abuse.