Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides cash assistance and help in moving from welfare to work for low-income families with children. TANF replaced the precursor federal program Aid to Families with Dependent Children in 1996. The changes were substantial. Instead of open-ended federal funding matching state expenditures on at least a one-to-one basis, TANF provides flat funding to states based on the amount they received just before the new law was enacted. Assistance to families is also no longer open-ended – federal funds cannot provide cash benefits for more than 60 months, lifetime; states can set shorter time limits if they choose. In addition, parents receiving TANF must participate in work activities as a condition of receiving benefits.
Since 1996, the TANF caseload has been reduced by more than half. Many families have left welfare for work, although often not at above-poverty wages. However, troubling numbers of families have left TANF without being able to secure steady employment. Families in this situation are disproportionately likely to suffer from disabilities and low skills. Their problems make it difficult for them to comply with program rules, and they are pushed off assistance. One study found that children in families that have lost TANF assistance were more likely to have health problems and be admitted to the hospital.
TANF was due to be reauthorized in 2002, but Congress has been unable to agree on renewing the legislation. Instead, it has repeatedly enacted short-term extensions of current law, with no increases in annual funding since the law was first enacted in 1996.
For more information on this issue, visit CHN’s Public Policy Priorities, 2013-2014.
Center for Community Change
Center for Law and Social Policy
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Children’s Defense Fund
National Immigration Law Center
National Women’s Law Center
Voices for America’s Children
Policy Analyses and Research
- January 11, 2013CBPP: Online Services for Key Low-Income Benefit Programs