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.
In 1997, for every 100 families in poverty, 60 received benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. However, by 2010, only 27 families received TANF benefits for every 100 in poverty. At the start of the recession, 1.69 million families were on TANF, by December 2010, despite the ravages of the recession this number had only risen to 1.94 million–an increase of 25,000 families–far below the 4 million families served in 1997 when the economy was booming.
For more information on this issue, visit CHN’s Public Policy Priorities, 2015-2016.
- June 23, 2015CBPP: TANF Continues to Weaken as a Safety Net
Policy Analyses and Research
- August 9, 2016CBPP: Commentary - After 1996 Welfare Law, a Weaker Safety Net and More Children in Deep Poverty
- July 21, 2016After 20 Year, TANF Provides Little to Poor Families