Learn About the Basics and Benefits of TANF

TANF, or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, offers financial assistance to qualifying households that earn low incomes.The purpose of TANF is to help struggling families overcome poverty and become financially self-sufficient.

Beneficiaries receive payments that can be used toward a number of necessary costs such as food, shelter, clothing and other common and essential expenses. 

Before you can receive benefits from TANF, you and your household must meet the eligibility criteria. You must meet work- and income-related requirements as well as categorical criteria.

It is essential that you meet these requirements when first applying and then maintain your eligibility after receiving benefits. Your eligibility not only determines whether or not you will be accepted into the program but also how much you will receive if accepted. 

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If you are accepted into the TANF program, there a number of important aspects that you need to know about. For instance, you must know how your benefits will be dispersed and what you can spend them on. Read further to learn about the benefits that you will receive and TANF eligibility details. 

Find Out About TANF Requirements

In order to obtain TANF benefits, you and the other members of your household must meet the program qualifications. Although each state has varying requirements, there are general guidelines that each follow, such as income, work and categorical requirements. Read below to learn more. 


One of the most important criteria that applicants must meet is income limits. Prospective beneficiaries must demonstrate financial need when they apply. Income limits differ in each state according to the average living costs in each state. 

Moreover, the number of members in the household is also considered when analyzing income. For instance, families with more members are permitted to earn higher incomes and still qualify. 

In addition, it is important to understand that if you are a teen and a parent, your parents’ income may be considered. However, this depends on the specifications of your state’s program. 

Categorical Requirements 

To be considered for the TANF program, your household must meet the definition of a family. Furthermore, there must be at least one dependent who is a child 18 year of age or younger that lives in the dwelling. The program does not accept applicants without dependent children. 

However, certain states permit pregnant women into the program even if they do not have any other dependent children in their home. Rules of certain state TANF programs specify that pregnant women who are at or past a particular stage of pregnancy do qualify. For instance, pregnant women in Alaska may be eligible for benefits at seven months of their pregnancy.


Applicant households are required to provide information about their assets and resources. Each state has an established amount in resources that residents can possess. Moreover, different state TANF programs may accept different resources as assets while others are exempt. Assests may include:

  • The amount you hold in a bank account.
  • Vehicles.
  • Property. 

However, asset limits do not exist in every state. For instance, in Alabama, there is no limit on the amount of assets that you can have. 

Work Requirements 

If you are accepted into your state’s TANF program, you will be required to meet certain work requirements. This can involve finding employment or participating in work or education programs. In some states, you must meet work-related eligibility requirements either immediately or within a certain period of time. 

In certain states, some work programs are not paid. Instead, they are meant to help you reach hourly work requirements through volunteer work. If you do not meet your work requirements, you may lose TANF benefits. 

Additional Requirements 

Some states may require applicants to meet additional criteria. For example, some programs mandate that minors attend school and maintain their attendance to continue receiving benefits. 

Find Out the TANF Basics

The TANF program is a federal initiative to assist low-income households afford necessary costs. Qualifying families receive financial assistance in order to make their purchases. Although the program is funded by the federal government, it is administered and managed by state organizations. Each state TANF office may have different rules and restrictions that applicants must abide by. 

In addition to assisting residents financially, there are four other goals that the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program seeks to meet. One of its goals is to financially assist households with children. This is so that children can remain with parents or relatives. 

Another goal is to decrease pregnancies that occur outside of marriages. Moreover, one purpose of TANF is to promote two-parent households. Last, the TANF program seeks to decrease the dependence on government programs overall.  

What are the benefits of TANF?

It is important to understand your TANF benefits if you are approved for the program. It is essential to know how your benefits will be dispersed, how much you will receive and what you can purchase with them. 

When you begin receiving benefits, they will be available to you on the same day every month. You can receive your benefits through a paper check or Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. Conversely, you can opt for an Electronic Payment card. Instructions for setting up your benefits will be given to you when you receive your notification of approval for benefits. 

There are many items that you can purchase with your TANF benefits. For example, they can be used toward good, clothing and other household products. Your TANF benefits can be used towards rent and household expenses that occur monthly to help reduce your total monthly costs. This as long as your purchase is not going toward prohibited items. 

There are a number of items and products that are prohibited by the TANF program. This means that recipients will either not be able to purchase these items. Alternatively, they may receive a penalty for purchasing these items. Any products that are illegal are prohibited from being purchased using TANF benefits as well as: 

  • Alcohol.
  • Tobacco.
  • Tattoos and piercings.

Using TANF benefits for any kind of gambling is prohibited. If you are found using your funds for gambling or on any other prohibited services or goods, you will be penalized. Your benefits may be reduced or withdrawn.