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TANF Policies

This compilation shares some policies that states can choose to put into place in their Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) programs in order to support economic security for families with young children. If you’d like to see how a specific state currently spends TANF funds, take a look at How States Spend TANF Funds from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

Changing Requirements and Benefits

  • Expanding eligibility and Benefits

States have flexibility in determining eligibility requirements, work requirements, time limits, application requirements, benefit amounts.

Sources:

Urban Institute: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Caseloads Early in the Pandemic

CBPP: TANF cash assistance should reach millions more families to lessen hardship

CBPP: Cash assistance historically weak in southern states, now weak in most states

Eliminating Exclusions

  • Removing Punitive Behavioral Policies

States can act without federal changes to eliminate punitive policies around behavioral requirements, reproductive controls, and other exclusions.

Source:

CBPP: Ending Behavioral Requirements and Reproductive Control Measures Would Move TANF in an Antiracist Direction

Eliminating Full-Family Sanctions

  • Repealing sanctions that impact entire families

States can choose to repeal full family sanctions, which take away TANF assistance to the entire family if the parent doesn’t meet work or other requirements.

Examples:

Illinois, Maryland, Maine, District of Columbia

Source:

CBPP: Maine Joins Growing List of States Repealing TANF Full-Family Sanctions

Work Requirement Exemption

  • Exempting single parents on TANF from work requirements until the youngest child reaches age one

Twenty-six states have such an exemption.

Source:

National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP): Early Childhood Profiles

Work Requirement Reduction

  • Reducing the TANF work requirement to 20 hours or less for single parents with children under age six

Thirty-seven states have reduced work requirements.

Source:

NCCP: Early Childhood Profiles

Exemption on Benefit Time Limit for Pregnant People

  • Exemptions and/or extensions of the TANF benefit time limit for people who are pregnant or caring for a child under six months of age

Nineteen states have such an exemption.

Source:

NCCP: Early Childhood Profiles

Time Limits

  • Time limit extensions during times of high unemployment

Example:

Washington

Source:

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL): Economic Mobility Enacted Legislation Database

Child Care Assistance Eligibility

  • TANF eligibility is not reduced with receipt of child care subsidy

Example:

Indiana

Source:

NCSL: Economic Mobility Enacted Legislation Database

Diaper Subsidy

  • Monthly diaper subsidy for parents or other caregivers receiving TANF

Example:

Washington

Source:

NCSL: Economic Mobility Enacted Legislation Database

Temporary Policies During COVID (Or Other Emergencies)

  • Suspending up-front job search requirements
  • Not counting unemployment insurance as income
  • Issuing good-cause exemptions for work requirements
  • Removing work-related sanctions
  • Developing virtual learning activities
  • Waiving in-person interviews
  • Automatically extending or recertifying eligibility
  • Having an online application available
  • Adjusting time limits
  • Excluding income from pandemic relief funds received by families from eligibility criteria

Source:

Urban Institute: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Caseloads Early in the Pandemic