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What is TANF and How Can it Help Me?


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What is TANF?:

TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. It is a federally funded grant program that allows states to create and administer their own assistance programs. TANF replaces the federal programs previously known as "welfare," and enables states to offer a wide variety of social services.

What is the Goal of TANF?:

To provide families in need with a combination of financial assistance and work opportunities.

How Do I Apply for TANF?:

TANF is administered by the Office of Family Assistance, which is part of the Administration for Children and Families. Each state has its own local TANF office. However, the titles of TANF programs vary state to state. Read Find the TANF Program in Your Area to access services locally.

What Are the Requirements of Parents Receiving TANF?:

As a single parent receiving TANF, you would be required to participate in qualified "work activities" for at least 30 hours per week. In most cases, you would be expected to obtain employment immediately upon receiving assistance, and recipients must be employed within two years.

What "Work Activities" Qualify?:

Qualifying work activities are made up of "Core Work Activities" and "Non-Core Work Activities." Your "Core Work Activities" must make up at least 20 of your 30 work hours per week.

What are the "Core Work Activities" That Qualify?:

  • Unsubsidized employment
  • Subsidized private sector employment
  • Subsidized public sector employment
  • On-the-job training
  • Job search (limited to no more than 4 weeks in a row or 6 weeks total)
  • Work experience
  • Participation in a community service program
  • Vocational education training (limited t 12 months)
  • Providing childcare for another TANF recipient engaged in community service

What Are the "Non-Core Activities" That Qualify?:

  • Job skills training
  • Education related to your employment
  • Secondary schooling or a GED program

Are There Exceptions to the Work Rule for Single Parents?:

If you have children under 6 and you are unable to find adequate child care, the state cannot penalize you for not meeting the work requirement. In addition, those with children under 6 are only required to complete a total of 20 hours of work activities per week.

What Happens If I Am Unable to Meet the Work Requirements?:

The state may reduce or revoke your benefits.

Are There Limits to How Long I Can Receive TANF Benefits?:

Yes. In most cases, you can only receive TANF benefits for a maximum of 5 years (or 60 months).

Office of Public Affairs. "Office of Family Assistance (OFA)." Fact Sheets. Oct. 2006. Administration for Children and Families. 26, Oct. 2006 [http://www.acf.hhs.gov/opa/fact_sheets/tanf_factsheet.html].

"Welfare Reform: Interim Final Regulations." Fact Sheets. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration of Children and Families. 29 Oct. 2006 [http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/regfact.htm].

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