Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, also referred to as TANF, is an economic assistance program that is operated by the federal government. Individuals who qualify for TANF can receive a monthly cash benefit from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The TANF program is operated at the state level and each state is given a block grant to design and administer the TANF program as they see fit. The amount of assistance available to a family through this program will depend on the family's household income and how many people are living in the household. To apply for TANF, an applicant needs to contact the local human services agency that is in charge of administering these benefits.

Not all families will qualify for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. In order to qualify for this monthly cash benefit, applicants must meet the income thresholds and must have minor children living in the household. Families who do not have minor children living in the household may qualify for TANF benefits if a member of the household is pregnant.

The TANF program was introduced in 1996 under President Bill Clinton. Unlike previous welfare programs, the TANF program was designed to provide a “hand up” rather than a “hand out”, encouraging individuals to find employment and, eventually, cease the need for TANF benefits. Those who are receiving TANF benefits must actively seek employment in order to maintain the continuance of TANF assistance or, if unable to currently seek employment, must pursue a plan to become financially self-sufficient, such as pursuing set educational goals.

An individual is limited to the amount of TANF benefits they can receive during their lifetime. A family can receive TANF benefits for a maximum of 60 months, although some states have stricter time limits. In some states, this time limit only applies to the adults who live in the household. In these cases, if the 60-month limit is met and benefits are still needed, the state may choose to continue to provide benefits to children in the home.

In most cases, families who qualify for TANF benefits will also qualify for other economic assistance such as state-funded medical insurance or food stamps, and you could potentially be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits as well.