Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: How to Apply for TANF in Your State

Here’s how to apply for your state’s Temporary Assistance Program for Needy Families

Budgets could be tighter for families this holiday season because price increases due to inflation continue and many families across the United States are struggling to make ends meet. As a cold winter arrives and families look for ways to keep warm while feeding their families, a little financial help can go a long way. If you need financial assistance this season, each state has a Temporary Assistance Program for Needy Families to help you get back on your feet that you can apply for.

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The TANF program was created when the Reconciliation of Personal Responsibilities and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton. It is designed to help low-income families with children become economically self-sufficient. The program currently provides $16.5 billion to all 50 states, Washington, DC and other US territories.

Here’s what you need to know about the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and how to apply. For more information, here’s how to know if energy assistance programs can help your high energy bills.

How does TANF work?

Each state uses block grants from TANF to fund monthly cash assistance payments to low-income families with children. Although each state’s program is different, they are all designed to help struggling families by providing cash support.

Depending on the state you live in, the help available may vary. Some may offer emergency assistance to people close to homelessness due to an emergency. Some states may also offer programs such as Higher Opportunity for Pathways to Employment in addition to TANF, which helps parents pursue training and education beyond high school.

States can use federal money to help provide child care and help parents prepare for employment.

Am I eligible to receive TANF?

The TANF program bases eligibility on your income, and it also depends on the state you live in. For example, the maximum monthly gross income limit in Mississippi for a family of three is $680. For California, your family must not have more than $2,250 in income resources.

Some other requirements might include at least one of the following in your family: a pregnant person, a dependent under the age of 18, or a dependent in college.

To find out more about eligibility where you live, contact your state benefits office.

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Some states have a portal where you can apply.

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How long can I receive TANF support?

Again, this depends on your condition, but in most cases you can receive TANF assistance for up to 60 months in total during your lifetime. Each month you receive assistance will count towards the 60 months. So if one year you use TANF for five months, you will have 55 months left.

After using the 60 months, states can make the decision to exceed the 60 month limit based on hardship.

How do I apply to start receiving TANF relief?

It all depends on the state you live in. For example, some states offer an online portal where you can apply, while others still require you to complete an application and either mail it or visit an office nearest you.

To get started, visit the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Help for Families webpage. From there, you can select the state you live in, which may provide you with the information you need to get started.

You should see the address and phone number of the state office to answer all your questions. Each state has its own website which provides links to details of the programs it offers. For example, Kentucky has the Transitional Assistance Program, known as K-TAP, and California has the Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids Program, or CALWORKS.

Some states, like Kansas, offer a portal where you can check your eligibility online, apply for benefits, and access them online.

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