Employment and Training for TANF Recipients

If you receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, known as TANF, employment and training programs can help you go back to school or guide you on your career pathway. On this page, learn more about programs, what to expect, how we can help you succeed, and more. Your county assistance office caseworker and your employment and training case manager will give you more information. Remember: This information is only for those who receive TANF.  



Jump to a section:

1) Programs  2) What to expect  3) Requirement exceptions  4) Special allowances




The information provided on this site never replaces talking to your caseworker or employment and training case manager.

Please reach out to your TANF team if you:

  • Need to report a change
  • Have problems and cannot attend your program
  • Have benefit-related questions
  • Need supportive services

The phone number for your caseworker should be on the bottom of page three of the agreement you signed called Agreement of Mutual Responsibility, or AMR. It looks like this:

 AMR form example

You also can call the Statewide Customer Service Center, toll-free, at 877-395-8930. In Philadelphia, call 215-560-7226.




If you receive TANF, you may be able to go to one of these programs. Talk to your caseworker for more information.


Employment, Advancement, & Retention Network

Where it's offered:
✓ In all Pennsylvania counties

For you if:
✓ You have a work history and high school diploma or GED
✓ You have trade skills, a certification, or a college degree

✓ Help finding and keeping a job
✓ Resume workshops
✓ Mock job interviews
✓ Community service
✓ Help understanding personal finances
✓ Certificate and trade programs
✓ Apprenticeship opportunities

Can help you:
✓ Get and keep employment that allows you to support yourself and your family


Work Ready

Where it's offered:
✓ In select counties. Talk with your caseworker about what is available.

For you if:
✓ You and your family need more time and help before starting training or work
✓ You are preparing to enter or return to the job market
✓ You want to get your high school diploma or GED

✓ Help with criminal history, pregnancy, difficulties at home, and more
✓ Provides referrals to other community help
✓ Helps to prepare for and obtain GED
✓ Educates on personal finances, parenting, healthy food choices, and more
✓ Help getting ready for employment

Can help you:
✓ Overcome challenges, get your diploma or GED, and prepare for other programs


Keystone Education Yields Success

Where it's offered:
✓ In select counties. Talk with your caseworker about what is available.

For you if:
✓ You are already going to a PA community college and meet certain additional requirements
✓ You are interested in attending a PA community college and meet certain additional requirements

(Please check with your caseworker to see if you qualify)

✓ Help with the college system, including financial aid and career exploration
✓ Supports to help students succeed
✓ Class and some study time are counted activities toward hourly requirements
✓ Peer groups that link KEYS students for support

Can help you:
✓ Graduate from college with your degree or certificate and start your career

Program requirements and activities

If you receive TANF, you must meet the work requirement. This means that you must work or participate in approved activities like:

  • Job search
  • Job skills training
  • Education (may include vocations school and community college that will directly lead to employment, as well as pursuing your GED and improving your English learner levels, if either is needed to help you become more employable.)
  • Other job-related activities

Your caseworker will tell you how many hours you must work or participate based on your personal situation.


Can I be excused from the requirement?

Yes, you may be excused from the work requirement if you prove you cannot work or look for work because of circumstances outside of your control. Some reasons include, but are not limited to:

  • Disability
  • Caring for a child under 12 months old (limited to 12 months in a parent’s lifetime)
  • Caring for a disabled household member (who must live with you)
  • Personal or family emergency
  • Homelessness
  • Domestic violence

Talk with your caseworker for more information. It is important to keep them updated so they can best serve you. All information you provide will be kept confidential according to the law.


Prepare & succeed


How to prepare for your first day:
 Set up child care (Find your local Early Learning Resource Center)
 Arrange transportation beforehand *
 Get directions to your program location using the address listed on your Agreement of Mutual Responsibility (AMR)
 Pack a lunch (lunch will NOT be provided)
 Take your AMR and ID to your program

How to succeed in employment and training:
 Attend every scheduled day
 Arrive on time
 Work with your case manager to develop a plan that meets your needs and fulfills your requirements
 Take advantage of workshops, job fairs, etc.
 Call your program if you have problems getting there

*If you have trouble arranging child care and/or transportation, call your caseworker so that they can help you. Have a “back-up plan” for times when unexpected problems arise. This will help you to not miss time at your program.


Special Allowances

What are special allowances?

A special allowance is money for things you need to participate in your employment and training program. Your caseworker will help you figure out what types of special allowances you are able to receive. Special allowances are always given in advance so that you can pay for what you need upfront. Once you receive a special allowance, you must buy only the item(s) your allowance was intended for AND provide your caseworker with the original receipt within 14 days. You may be able to get special allowances for many different things, including:

Child care

If you need child care while you attend your employment and training program or other required activity, it can be covered for you. Your caseworker will refer you to your local Early Learning Resource Center for assistance in setting up your child care. Use the Find Child Care online search tool to look for child care providers and for more information.

You will be asked to set up child care by your program start date so that you can begin your program on time. If you have trouble getting child care arranged by your program start date, contact your caseworker. They can give you more time and change your program start date if necessary. 

If you get a job while going to the program, you might be able to continue receiving reduced-cost child care as a former TANF recipient. Any out-of-pocket child care costs – including the cost of getting your child to and from the child care center – also can be considered when determining how much SNAP your family receives. This structure was designed to help you keep your job, advance your career, and achieve economic security for your family.


If you need help getting to your employment and training program, there are transportation options that could be covered for you, such as:
✓ Bus pass
✓ Taxi fare
✓ Gas money for yourself or your volunteer driver
✓ Car/Van pool
✓ Car repair or purchase
✓ Other vehicle-related expenses (driver’s license, inspection/emission, registration, etc.)

Education and Training

If you are in school, there are some special allowances that can help you pay for education-related expenses. Special allowances are NOT available for tuition, but can be available for things like:
✓ Books
✓ Certain school supplies
✓ Fees


✓ If you need help buying clothes for an interview, training, or a new job, you may be referred to PA Work Wear to get appropriate clothing.


Do I have to repay the county assistance office for my special allowance?

Special allowances are not loans and do not need to be repaid as long as they are spent correctly and documentation is provided. The only times you would have to pay back part or all of your special allowance are when:

✓ You do not provide the receipt to the county assistance office
✓ The special allowance money is used on something other than what the allowance was issued for
✓ You do not participate in your program for the amount of time the allowance was issued to cover
✓ There is more than $10 of the special allowance left after buying the intended item

Note: You may not be eligible for all types of special allowances. Special allowances are issued based on the most reasonable, cost-effective option for you and your situation. Additionally, there are limits to how much can be paid for items and how often you can receive certain allowances. Your caseworker can help you figure out what special allowances are best suited for you.