TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families)

A bearded white man standing in a field, holding a young child on his shoulders

What is TANF?

TANF provides a basic monthly income to families who have few other resources. The program used to be called AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). It may be called something else in your state. A Social Services office in each state runs this program. TANF is a cash benefit. This means that you get money to spend as you choose, unlike food supplements, which limit what you can buy.


Who can qualify?

Single low-income parents with children and women in the later stages of pregnancy are generally eligible. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and other relatives who are taking care of related children may be eligible. Sometimes “intact families” (where both parents are in the home) can get benefits. If one parent is disabled or if one parent is underemployed for a period of time, they may be eligible. If you are denied benefits and think you may qualify, contact your nearest legal services office for help.

TANF programs have income and asset tests. Your local Social Services office, where you apply, can explain these rules. But "TANF," or a program description about monthly support for families with children, should appear somewhere in the program listing.   


What other rules should I know about before applying?

If you are a single parent getting TANF, your state agency will try to collect child support from the other parent. If you feel that this would be unsafe for you or your children, tell the Social Services agency where you apply. Or talk to your nearest legal services office about exceptions to this rule. In a dangerous situation, you may not have to identify the other parent.

TANF programs have work and training requirements. You may be required to work or go to school a certain number of hours a week. There may be exceptions if you are disabled, if you have a very young child, or you cannot work for other reasons.

Be sure that you understand the rules. If you have problems with these rules, or get a “sanction” for not following the rules, contact your nearest legal services office. If you get a notice saying that your TANF benefits are denied or reduced, that you have an overpayment, or that you committed fraud, contact your nearest legal services office for help right away.


Updated May 2020

Source URL: https://statesidelegal.org/tanf