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TANF Program Information

Part 2 of 2

More Limitations and Requirements
A key feature of TANF is the work requirement. Federal funding to the states is tied to having TANF recipients participate in work activities. Recipients who refuse to work can expect benefits to be reduced or cut off because a recipient's refusal to work jeopardizes the program for the entire state. Nearly all recipients must be work ready within the 24 months and must participate in a work or community service.

Requirements can appear daunting and confusing, but personnel to guide you through the requirements is part of the program. You will not be on your own to secure training, land a suitable job, and find transportation and childcare. TANF is designed to help you through those challenges. You can expect the following work requirements:

You must participate in work activities such as a "regular" unsubsidized job, a government or private-sector subsidized public or private job, a purposeful job search, community service, on-the-job training, vocational or skills training, pursuit of high school equivalency, or completion of secondary school.

Single parents must work at least 30 hours/week; two-parent families must participate in work activities for a combined 35-55 hours/week.

You must be ready to accept employment when it comes available.

You cannot quit work.

Once a family is approved for TANF, they typically qualify for a variety of subsidies and training programs. The actual dollar amount of benefits ranges widely from state-to-state. Information on benefit amounts can be found here. The most common benefits are

Food stamps

Job training

Assistance obtaining and keeping a job

Cash payments which can be used for clothing, housing, transportation, phone, laundry, home supplies, and medical needs not paid for by Medicaid.

Marriage and parenting workshops and support through the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood program.

The application process is conducted at the state level. The federal government does not screen or approve applicants. It does not issue benefits. Approval and services are conducted in local offices only. By some reports, only 40% of applicants are approved. You will need to get information about your state to determine if application is online or in person.

You will need to submit a completed TANF application. You will then be invited to an interview within a few days of submitting your application. You will need to prepare documentation for the interview. You may be asked for proof of ID, proof of age of each household family member, proof of address, household size, housing expenses, social security numbers, information about absent parents, proof of earnings, proof of citizenship or alien status, child support, other government benefits, assets, loans, banking information, insurance policies, vehicle documents, school attendance records, utility bills, and other expenses. You will need to give a statement about drug or alcohol dependency.

TANF is working with millions of parents and children to strengthen marriages, parenting, and communication skills and to promote a healthy life for families facing economic challenges. TANF workers are trained to support parents and caregivers as they gain skills and meaningful employment to support intact families equipped to care for children in a stable environment in their own homes.