Learn About Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is designed to provide short-term assistance to families with children when the parents or other responsible caretakers cannot provide for their basic needs. 

The TANF program is funded by the federal government, although it is the responsibility of each state to administer the program. Because of this, the eligibility requirements and the process for applying may vary from state-to-state.

It is essential that you understand the eligibility requirements for receiving TANF assistance before you start the application process. If your child is older than a certain age, or your income is over the limit, you cannot receive the benefits. To receive TANF benefits, you must apply through the state that you reside in.

The application process can be confusing if you are not prepared ahead to time, so it is important to understand the steps for applying and the documents and information you need. To learn more about the eligibility requirements and the application process, read the sections below.

Find Out the TANF Requirements

There are multiple requirements that must be met by you and your family members in order for TANF support to be given. These include age, income and even behavioral requirements. Ensure that you are completely aware of the eligibility requirements before applying so that you can make an educated decision regarding whether you should fill out an application.

Age Requirement

To receive TANF benefits, the members of the household must meet the age requirements. Adults do not need to be a certain age, although the dependents must be 18 years of age or younger. However, there is an exception to this rule, as the child can be older than 18 as long as he or she is a full-time high school student.

In addition, pregnant women may also qualify for assistance through the TANF program without needing to be a certain age and without needing to have other minor children. However, this assistance is only granted in certain states, and each state has different requirements for the month of pregnancy you must be in to qualify. For instance, in Tennessee, you must be at least six months pregnant before being eligible.

Note: Teenage parents may qualify for cash assistance as long as they meet other requirements, although each state has different regulations regarding assistance for minor parents.

Income Requirement

The purpose of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program is to provide assistance to low-income families that are unable to support themselves financially. Because of this, there are very strict income requirements that must be met in order for support to be given.

The exact income limits vary depending on the state because of the vastly different costs of living in each area of the United States. For instance, the income requirement in Alabama is much less than the income requirement in Hawaii. This is due to the fact that the cost of living is much higher in Hawaii.

In addition to income, the level of assets that a family has also factors into the eligibility. States will run an assets test to determine what money you have in bank accounts and calculate the vehicles and properties you own. Most states have a dollar amount of assets that you must stay under in order to qualify for assistance.

Note: Typically, the income and asset requirements set by each state are uniform throughout the state. However, in certain states such as California, the income requirements vary in different regions.

Discover How to Apply for TANF Assistance

You must apply for TANF assistance through the state that you reside in, even though TANF is a federally-funded grant program. This is because each state administers the program separately. Therefore, if you live in Utah, you must complete a Utah TANF application form. Also, keep in mind that some states call the program by different names.

The first step in applying for the program is completing an application form. In certain states, you can complete the application completely online. However, other states require different methods such as getting an application in person or by mail. Contact the agency that administers TANF in your area to learn more about where you can obtain an application form.

Filling Out the Application Form

Regardless of the method you utilize to apply, you must complete the application completely and accurately. Do not skip sections of the application and ensure that you only provide truthful information.

Inputting incorrect information constitutes fraud and will lead to the denial of your application. Also, not providing all of the information necessary will make it so that the department is unable to decide if you meet the eligibility requirements.

When you fill out the application, it can be beneficial to have certain documents with you to help you answer the questions. For instance, documents that state your income and the amount of money you pay for rent can be helpful. You must provide information regarding each member of your household, so ensure that you have the appropriate documents on hand to complete the form accurately.

You may also be required to provide supporting documentation by a TANF caseworker. Forms that are needed for the application include proof of identity, income, residency and more.

What to Expect After You Apply

After you complete the application you must ensure that you submit it along with the necessary documents. This submission may be completed online in certain states, or in person, by mail or by fax. After your application is submitted, your local TANF agency will contact you to schedule an interview.

During this interview, you must provide evidence to support the information included in your application. The interview allows the agency to ask additional questions and determine whether or not you qualify.

Your case will then be reviewed, and you will be notified about the decision within a couple of months’ time. If the local agency approves your application, you will receive information regarding the cash assistance you will receive. If your application is denied, you will receive a letter stating the reasoning behind the denial and your right to appeal the decision.