Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a state-run, time-limited program that assists families with children when the parents or other responsible relatives cannot provide for the family's basic needs (such as food, clothing and shelter). States design their TANF programs in ways that promote work, responsibility, and self-sufficiency, and strengthen families.

The TANF program has four goals:

  • To provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives;

  • To end the dependency of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage;

  • To prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and establish annual goals for preventing and reducing the occurances of these pregnancies; and

  • To encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

States individually determine the type and amount of assistance payments, the range of other services to be provided, and the rules for determining who is eligible for TANF benefits.

Work Requirements: With few exceptions, TANF recipients must work after two years on assistance. Failure to participate in work requirements can result in either a reduction in benefits or termination of benefits. Single parents with a child under 6 who cannot find child care will not be penalized for not meeting the work requirements. States can also exempt single parents with children under age one from the work requirements.

Work Activities: People who receive TANF are required to participate in subsidized or unsubsiduzed employment, on-the-job training, work experience, community service, or 12 months of vocational training to count towards state work requirements. They may also meet the work requirements burden by providing child care services to people who are participating in community services.

Five-Year Time Limit: Families who have received assistance for five years (or less at state option) will be ineligible for state aid under the new welfare law. States are permitted to exempt certain families from the time limit.

For more information on the TANF program, contact your state social service agency.