TANF Provides Financial Assistance to help needy Families

By: Mary D., Published: Mar 16, 2020 | Related: Home Improvement Funding


TANF, a government-funded assistance program, known to most as “welfare”, is a program that provides grant money to families who are considered very low-income. TANF, or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, is managed by the Department of Health and Human Services and is a program that is funded completely by the federal government. The money used for the program comes in block grants to each state, allowing every state to provide tailor-made programs to their residents. These programs are specifically designed so that low-income residents can take advantage of the grants if they meet eligibility requirements and other guidelines of the program.

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There are four major goals of the TANF program, according to the Office of Family Assistance. These goals are to:

1. Provide care for dependent children within their own homes
2. Promote work and marriage to reduce the need for continued financial assistance
3. Reduce pregnancy rates in women who are not married
4. Encourage two-parent families

The History of the TANF Program

AFCD, or the Aid of Families with Dependent Children, was the first program that provided monthly cash benefits to families who met the income guidelines of the program. AFDC had permitted families to remain on the program on an indefinite basis, as long as they had dependent children under 18 years of age and met the income requirements of the program. Each state was permitted to adjust the requirements that would allow families to keep receiving benefits; however, these changes had to first be approved and had to stay within the goals of the program. Funding for this program was given out based on how many families were eligible for the program.


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This program began to draw a lot of criticism in the 80’s and 90’s. This was because many people believed that receiving the money led to single parenting and mothers having more children to receive more benefits. States began to request waivers so that they could implement various programs known as “welfare to work”. As more and more families began to apply for welfare, politicians at both state and federal levels began demanding a change that would push people to work rather than to simply accept welfare for years at a time.

Then-President Bill Clinton passed a law in 1996 known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. TANF became part of this program. However, the difference between the two was that recipients of the AFDC had a lifetime limit of 60 months on the program. Additionally, states received a block grant of funding, which was a pre-determined amount of money, no more and no less.

Federal TANF Requirements

Every state has different requirements for families who apply for TANF. One of the main differences is the amount of money a family can make to be eligible. However, every state still follows a few guidelines that are the same throughout the country. These guidelines include:

1.Applicants must have a dependent child who is under the age of 18 or be currently pregnant.
2.Have a very low income or no income at all.
3.Be either a citizen of the United States or show that they are a long-term legal immigrant (most states will require a social security number to be eligible).

When the family receives TANF benefits, the recipient of the program must have a job within 24 months after the start of the program. They must be working for 30 hours or more per week if their youngest dependent is more than six years old. The number of hours drops to twenty if the child is below the age of six. Again, they are only eligible to receive benefits for a total of 60 months within their lifetime.

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Additional Programs Funded by TANF

States are also permitted to use the funds they receive from TANF grants to fund additional programs, such as ones that encourage two-parent and working households. Work assistance programs, work training programs, and daycare funding are a few of the more common programs that the TANF grants may fund.

TANF cash assistance is very strict in most states. Families that are eligible for welfare are generally also eligible for other programs that offer assistance, such as WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) and SNAP (food assistance). Additionally, utility and housing assistance are available to TANF-eligible families.

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