Understanding TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

During difficult financial times, people usually consider borrowing from others when they’ve depleted their own resources. Individuals and families may choose to borrow from friends, family members, or even private lenders such as banks. However, besides the fact that they’d have to pay the money back, in some cases with interest, private loans have many other implications. If a family or individual fails to repay the funds they borrow, it may affect their personal relationships or their credit scores. Obviously, these implications can have long-term effects on borrowers. That’s why it’s a good idea to seek help from the government during times of financial hardship! If eligible, people can benefit from financial support through the government that may be able to provide relief to their situation.

That’s what makes federal assistance programs such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) so great. As you can probably understand from the name, the government uses this program to help families going through financial hardships. Let’s go through a rundown of the program. In case you’re interested in applying, it’s important to know all the basics.

How Does TANF Work?

With TANF in place, the government focuses on family stability and self-sufficiency. But, what does that actually mean? Well, TANF focuses on helping low-income families with children financially. The goal is to help them enough that they’d be able to eventually rely on themselves for financial survival. There’s actually a specific list of goals the government aims to achieve through TANF:

  • The federal government hopes children will grow up in their own homes, or, at least in their relatives’ homes. 
  • TANF should decrease families’ reliance on government assistance. The aim is to promote job preparation, work, and marriage. 
  • Cutting down on out-of-wedlock pregnancies
  • The development and stability of two-parent families

Essentially, the government provides funding (around $16.5 billion) to state governments. That means that whatever money the government gives through TANF is not the federal government’s direct responsibility. Instead, state governments run the program, control the extent of benefits provided, and also may choose to modify the qualifications required for eligibility. 

Let’s Talk About How You And Your Family Can Qualify For TANF

Alright, so, when it comes to qualifying for TANF the government focuses on 2 things: helping low-income families with children and making sure parents are actively working. When it comes to the “low income” part, the government is pretty straightforward. They’re looking for the following:

  • A family’s financial status must be seen as low-income
  • In the majority of cases, your family needs to include at least one child/dependant under the age of 18

Now, for the job part, there’s a bit more to say. So, the federal government grants TANF funds to each state to help promote jobs and job skills. That means families applying for TANF must be working or taking steps towards getting well-paid jobs. That’s why the federal governments have certain standards for states to satisfy to earn their TANF funding. However, work requirements can come with exceptions (but it will vary depending on the state).

How States Earn Their TANF Funding

There is a significant standard that states must meet to earn their TANF funding. That standard is called Work Participation Rates (WPR). WPR is broken down into 2 different statistics. The first statistic is the all-family rate. Basically, states receiving TANF funds need to have 50% of families receiving TANF benefits to be working for at least 30 hours a week. There’s an exception for single parents with children under the age of 6. They only need to work 20 hours a week. 

The second statistic is the two-parent family rate. Families run by 2 parents should at least 35 hours a week. State governments need to make sure 90% of two-parent families meet that requirement. To get a clearer understanding of what the government sees as eligible jobs, you should probably check out the 12 categories of work set by the government. 

Bottom Line

When you find yourself in need of some additional support, you should consider checking out Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in your state. This opportunity can help families through cash assistance, employment support, and more. Each state will have their own version of TANF. If you are interested in applying you will want to get in touch with your state TANf office for more information!

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