What is TANF?
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Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, also known as TANF, assists families with children when parents or other responsible relatives struggle to make ends meet to provide for the family’s basic needs. The program is a crucial safety net for 96,963 children and 37,332 adults in Pennsylvania.

Drawing of a mother, son, and daughter holding hands

 


 There are several eligibility requirements 

Icon of a young girl

There must be a child younger than 18 in the household, or a child who is 18 and expected to graduate before turning 19.

 

icons representing job-searching, single parent home, and a disability.

Parents with dependent children who meet one of the following criteria are TANF-eligible:
   • Unemployment of one or both parents
   • Absence of a parent
   • Disability of one or both parents
 

 


  In addition to meeting income requirements, a family must have no more than $1,000 in countable resources.

Countable resources include:
 

Icons of a coin, a piggy bank, and a car

Bank account  |  Savings account  |  Car

 

  


   Families aren't getting rich from TANF

Doodle of a family

The average family on TANF is a family of three
receiving $403 per month in assistance

Icon of a watch

The program is time-limited. With limited exceptions, families
are only able to receive TANF for up to five cumulative years.

 


 TANF has work requirements
Many people who receive TANF must participate in a work activity for a minimum number of hours per week.

Hourly requirements vary based on:

Icons showing a 1 and 2 parent household

Whether 1 or 2 parents live in the household

Four children ranging from newborn to teen

The age of the child(ren) in the household

Exceptions are made for people who can’t work due to a physical or mental disability.
 
 

  TANF is federally funded  
However, keeping federal funding requires a Maintenance of Effort (MOE) from states. State must spend a specified minimum amount of their own funds for benefits and services, or else they can lose federal grant money.

Illustration showing that federal money is paid to the state for TANF if the state spends a specified minimum amount of their own fund for benefits and services.

 


 Where TANF funding goes
Most TANF funds are spent on child care and supporting early learning programs so parents with low incomes can work, participate in job training, or complete an educational program.

The chart below shows the breakdown of funds.
Breakdown of whatTANF funding goes towards

 

Cash Assistance
Federal: $204 million
State: $6 million

County child welfare
Federal: $59 million
State: $18 million

Employment/training/workforce development
Federal: $124 million
State: $6 million
Child care, Head Start, and early learning
Federal: $286 million
State: $409 million
Administration
Federal: $42 million
State: $53 million

Other
Federal: $1 million
State: $0

 


 TANF enrollment is dropping
A look at enrollment, per year, since 1990:
lLine graph showing the decline is the number of people enrolled in TANF

 

1990: 528,369
1991:
574,810
1992:
597,382
1993:
611,180
1994:
619,538
1995:
576,889
1996:
536,863

1997: 433,028
1998:
355,909
1999:
285,905
2000:
251,817
2001:
231,134
2002:
218,831
2003:
223,629

2004: 249,812
2005:
262,486
2006:
251,490
2007:
217,562
2008:
199,666
2009:
210,614
2010:
220,788

2011: 220,242
2012:
214,387
2013:
196,795
2014:
192,757
2015:
177,264
2016:
157,422
2017:
139,239

 View/download a PDF version of TANF enrollment chart.

Infographic published February 2018

 

Learn more about the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.