Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal program that provides cash assistance to struggling American families with dependent children. This cash benefit is often referred to simply as "welfare".

About TANF

As stated by the Office of Administration for Children and Families, the purpose of TANF is to:

  • Provide assistance to needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes.
  • Reduce the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage.
  • Prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
  • Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

Eligibility Requirements

TANF benefits are awarded by states, and, as such, individual states determine who is eligible for TANF benefits and services, so long is they conform to federal guidelines.

In general, states must use TANF funds to help families with children, or, if they do assist single persons, it must be for the purpose of reducing non-marital childbearing.

TANF funds cannot be used to assist most legal immigrants until they have been in the US for at least five years. Additionally, the following work requirements must be met in order to qualify:

  • Recipients must go to work as soon as they are able, and no later than two years after beginning to receive assistance.
  • Single parents are required to do some form of work for at least 30 hours per week. Two-parent families must participate in work activities for 35 or 55 hours a week, depending upon circumstance.
  • Failure to follow work requirements can result in a reduction or termination of benefits to the entire family.
  • As of 2004, states must ensure that 50 percent of all families and 90 percent of two-parent families are participating in work activities.

Apply for TANF

Be prepared with these documents:

  • ID or Driver’s License
  • Proof of Residency Utility Bills
  • Proof of Income
  • Social Security Card(s)

Also, you should be prepared to answer the following questions:

  1. Are you applying for your own children? If yes, how many children and what is the birth date of your youngest child?
  2. Do you receive SSI or disability Social Security benefits? Are you a 100 percent disabled veteran?
  3. Have you received a TANF payment this month?
  4. Have you ever received cash assistance in another state?
  5. Is there another parent in the household? If yes:
  6. Is the other parent working 100 or more hours per month?
  7. Is the other parent disabled?
  8. Is there a child in the home without both parents?
  9. Have you quit a job, reduced hours or been fired in the last 60 days? If yes, what was the reason?
  10. How much money do you or your children have in checking, savings, CDs, etc?
  11. Are you currently employed? If so what is you total earned income? Do you receive child support, UI or BIA general assistance, or any other income? If so, what are the totals of each.
  12. Do you and your children live alone? Do you live in subsidized housing or get help from anyone else with your housing costs?
  13. Have you ever been convicted of a felony? Are you running from the law to avoid prosecution? Have you ever been convicted of receiving duplicate public assistance?
  14. Are you a citizen of the United States?

To apply for TANF benefits, you will need to contact your local Department of Social Services (DSS) office. You can also call the federal hotline at 202-401-9275.

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