Senior’s Guide to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

seniors guide to tanf cover

Senior’s Guide to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

You will learn about:
  • TANF offices contact information
  • Eligibility requirements to qualify for benefits
  • Ways to apply for benefits in your state or territory

41 min – Estimated reading time

Senior’s Guide to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Senior’s Guide to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

seniors guide to tanf cover

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) is a welfare-job program funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that provides financial aid to eligible individuals and families on a monthly basis. Each state, U.S. territory and tribe has its own separate TANF program. Through TANF, these states can also choose to provide job preparation, work assistance and child care assistance. Refer to “TANF Services by Location” for more information.

The primary purpose of TANF is to help needy individuals and families achieve self-sufficiency. The federal government outlines the four primary goals for the TANF program as:

  1. Provide cash assistance to needy families to help them remain in their homes
  2. End family dependence on benefits by encouraging job preparation
  3. Reduce out-of-wedlock marriages, which is considered a driver of poverty
  4. Encourage the institution and maintenance of two-parent families

Seniors and TANF 

Seniors can only receive TANF benefits in certain scenarios. Since the program requires applicants to have or care for a child or be pregnant, seniors can only qualify when they are caring for a dependent child full-time. Learn more about how you can qualify as a caretaker in the “General TANF Eligibility for Seniors” section of this guide.

TANF Program Name and Contact Information Directory

Select your state or territory in the dropdown menu to learn more about program names and contact information for TANF. 

LocationTANF Program NameAdministrative OfficePhone NumberWhere to Find Local Office Contact Information
AlabamaFamily AssistanceAlabama Department of Human Resources(334) 242-1310https://dhr.alabama.gov/county-office-contact/ 
AlaskaAlaska Temporary Assistance Program(ATAP)Alaska Division of Public Assistance(907) 465-3347http://dhss.alaska.gov/dpa/Pages/contacts.aspx 
ArizonaCash AssistanceArizona Department of Economic Security (DES)(855) 432-7587https://azdes-community.secure.force.com/EOL/ 
ArkansasTransitional  Employment Assistance (TEA)
Arkansas Division of Workforce (ADWS) (501) 682-2121 https://www.dws.arkansas.gov/contact/ 
CaliforniaCalWORKSCalifornia Department of Social Services (DSS)(916) 651-8848https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Benefits-Services/Cash-Assistance/CalWORKS/County-Offices 
ColoradoColorado WorksColorado Department of Human Services(DHS)(303) 866-5700https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdhs/contact-your-county 
ConnecticutTemporary Family Assistance (TFA)Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS)(855) 626-6632https://portal.ct.gov/DSS/About-the-Department-of-Social-Services/Contact 
DelawareTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Delaware Division of Social Services (DSS) (800) 372-2022 https://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dss/ofclocations.html 
District of ColumbiaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Department of Human Services (DHS)(202) 727-5355https://dhs.dc.gov/service/find-service-center-near-you 
FloridaTemporary Cash Assistance (TCA)Florida Department of Children and Families(DCF)(850) 300-4323 https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/access/map.shtml 
GeorgiaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS)(404) 657-3433https://dfcs.georgia.gov/locations 
GuamCash AssistanceDepartment of Health and Human Services (DHHS)(671) 475-2653 http://dphss.guam.gov/contact-us-2/ 
HawaiiTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Hawaii Department of Human Services (DHS)(855) 643-1643http://humanservices.hawaii.gov/locations/ 
IdahoTemporary Assistance for Families in IdahoIdaho Department of Health and Welfare(DHW)(877) 456-1233 https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/ContactUs/tabid/127/Default.aspx 
IllinoisTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS)(833) 234-6343http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?module=12 
IndianaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Indiana Division of Family Resources (DFR)(800) 403-0864 https://secure.in.gov/fssa/dfr/2999.htm 
IowaFamily Investment ProgramIowa Department of Human Services (DHS)(800) 972-2017https://dhs.iowa.gov/dhs_office_locator 
KansasSuccessful Families ProgramKansas Department of Children and Families (DCF)(833) 765-2003 http://www.dcf.ks.gov/services/Pages/DCFOfficeLocatorMap.aspx 
KentuckyKentucky Transitional Assistance Program (KTAP)Kentucky Department for Community Based Services (DCBS)(800) 372-2973https://chfs.ky.gov/agencies/dcbs/dsr/Pages/default.aspx  
LouisianaFamily Independence Temporary AssistanceProgram (FITAP)Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)(888) 524-3578 http://www.dcfs.la.gov/directory 
MaineTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)(207) 287-3707https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/about/contact/offices 
MarylandTemporary Cash Assistance (TCA)Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS)(800) 332-6347https://dhs.maryland.gov/weathering-tough-times/temporary-cash-assistance/?page_id=805 
MassachusettsTransitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC)Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA)(877) 382-2363https://www.mass.gov/info-details/find-a-department-of-transitional-assistance-office-for-economic-assistance 
MichiganCash Assistance Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)(517) 241-3740 https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-73970_5461—,00.html  
MinnesotaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Minnesota Department of Health (MDH)(888) 345-0823https://www.health.state.mn.us/about/locations/index.html 
MississippiTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS)(800) 948-3050https://www.mdhs.ms.gov/local-mdhs-offices/ 
MissouriTemporary AssistanceMissouri Department of Social Services (DSS)(855) 373-4636https://dss.mo.gov/dss_map/ 
MontanaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS)(888) 706-1535
https://dphhs.mt.gov/hcsd/OfficeofPublicAssistance 
Nebraska Aid to Dependent Children (ADC)Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)(402) 471-3121http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Public-Assistance-Offices.aspx 
NevadaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF)Nevada Division of Welfare and Social Services (DWSS)(800) 992-0900 https://dwss.nv.gov/Contact/Welfare/ 
New HampshireFinancial Assistance for Needy Families (FANF)New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)(603) 271-9700https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/contactus/districtoffices.htm 
New JerseyWork First NJ (WFNJ)New Jersey Division of Family Development(DFD)
(609) 588-2000
https://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/workfirstnj/ 
New MexicoTemporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF)New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD)(505) 476-9266https://www.hsd.state.nm.us/lookingforassistance/contact-us/ 
New YorkFamily Assistance 
New York Department of Social Services(DSS)(800) 342-3009https://otda.ny.gov/workingfamilies/dss.asp 
North CarolinaWork First (WF)North Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS)(800) 662-7030https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/social-services/local-dss-directory 
North DakotaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF)North Dakota Department of Human Services (DHS)(701) 328-2310 https://www.nd.gov/dhs/locations/countysocialserv/index.html 
OhioOhio Works First (OWF)Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (JFS)(866) 244-0071http://jfs.ohio.gov/County/County_Directory.pdf 
OklahomaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF)Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS)(866) 411-1877https://oklahoma.gov/okdhs/contact-us.html 
OregonTemporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF)Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS)(503) 945-5600https://www.oregon.gov/DHS/Offices/Pages/Self-Sufficiency.aspx 
PennsylvaniaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF)Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS)(800) 692-7462 https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/CAO-Contact.aspx 
Puerto RicoPrograma de Ayuda Temporal para Familias Necesitadas (TANF)Administracionde Desarrollo Socioeconomico de la Familia (ADSEF)(787) 289-7600 ext. 2515https://servicios.adsef.pr.gov/programaAyudaTemporalFamiliasNecesitadas.aspx 
Rhode IslandRI Works (RIW) Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS)(855) 697-4347 http://www.dhs.ri.gov/DHSOffices/index.php 
South CarolinaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF)South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS)(800) 616-1309https://dss.sc.gov/contact/ 
South DakotaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF)South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS)(605) 773-4678 https://dss.sd.gov/findyourlocaloffice/  
TennesseeFamilies FirstTennessee Department of Human Services (DHS)(866) 311-4287https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/humanservices/for-families/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap/office-locator-family-assistance.html 
TexasTemporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF)Texas Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)(512) 424-6500https://www.yourtexasbenefits.com/Screener/FindanOffice 
U.S. Virgin IslandsTemporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF)Department of Human ServicesSt. Thomas: (340) 774-0930
St. John: (340) 776- 6334St. Croix: (340) 718- 2980
http://www.dhs.gov.vi/contact/index.html 
UtahFamily Employment Program Utah Department of Workforce Services(DWS)(801) 526-9675https://jobs.utah.gov/jsp/officesearch/#/map 
VermontReach UpVermont Department for Children and Families (DCF)(800) 479-6151https://dcf.vermont.gov/esd/contact-us/districts 
VirginiaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF)Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS)(804) 726-7000https://www.dss.virginia.gov/localagency/index.cgi/  
WashingtonTemporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF)Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)(877) 501-2233https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-offices/community-services-office 
West VirginiaWV Works Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR)(304) 558-0684 http://dhhr.wv.gov/bcf/Documents/DHHR.BCF.LocalOffices.pdf 
WisconsinWisconsin Works (W-2)Wisconsin W-2 Agency(608) 422-7000https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/w2/parents/locator 
WyomingPOWER Work Program Wyoming Department of Family Services (307) 777-7564 https://dfs.wyo.gov/about/contact-us/ 

General TANF Eligibility for Seniors

senior looking at papers TANF

In order to qualify for TANF, seniors must be caring for a dependent child in their homes who is 18 years of age or younger. If that child is a full-time student, he or she must be 19 years of age or younger. The dependent child can be a grandchild, a niece, a nephew or other qualified relative.

Seniors are referred to as “caretaker relatives” when caring for a child who is not their own.  To be a caretaker, they must have the majority responsibility for care, control and supervision of the dependent child.

They may apply for TANF as a needy or non-needy caretaker.

  • Needy caretaker relatives are those who are applying for assistance for themselves as well as the dependent child. They must meet all TANF eligibility requirements in their state to qualify.
  • Non-needy caretaker relatives are those who are applying for assistance for the dependent child only. They must only meet income eligibility requirements to qualify.

In addition to meeting the child care requirements above, seniors must also meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be unemployed, about to be unemployed or severely underemployed
  • Be U.S. citizens, legal immigrants or permanent residents
  • Be considered low to very low income

Continue reading the following sections to learn more about TANF eligibility requirements.

Income Requirements

Cash assistance from TANF is available to needy and non-needy caretaker relatives with incomes below the location’s median household income. Income must be less than 50 percent of this amount. 

TANF program income limits are determined based on:

  • Cost of living in each state or territory
  • Number of household members

Work Activity Requirements

TANF recipients are generally required to be employed or participate in work activities as a condition of receiving TANF cash benefits. However, work requirements for seniors may vary from state to state. Some states have work exemptions for senior caretakers. Contact your state’s TANF office to see if you are held to a work requirement. Refer to the section “TANF Program Name and Contact Information Directory” for more information.

Work activities are those that promote employment and foster the job search process. The federal government has 12 categories of work activities that states implement in their TANF programs. These are:

  • Unsubsidized employment
  • Subsidized private-sector employment
  • Subsidized public-sector employment
  • Work experience, if sufficient private-sector employment is not available
  • On-the-job training
  • Job-search and job-readiness assistance
  • Community service programs
  • Vocational education training
  • Child care services for individuals participating in a community service program
  • Job skills training 
  • Education related to employment
  • Attendance at a high school, if a minor

Each TANF program is responsible for determining the required amount of work search activities for eligibility. Some states may exempt senior caretakers from working or looking for work altogether. Contact your state’s TANF office to see if you are held to a work requirement. 

Behavioral Requirements

Some states and territories have certain behavioral requirements. The behavioral requirements typically are: 

  1. mandatory school attendance, and 
  2. medical immunizations

Programs with these requirements will limit or deny TANF cash benefits to applicants if school-age children under the care of relative caretakers are not attending school or if medical immunizations are not maintained.

Programs with these requirements will limit or deny TANF cash benefits to applicants if school-age children under the care of relative caretakers are not attending school or if medical immunizations are not maintained.

Asset Requirements

Many states impose limits on assets for needy caretaker relative TANF recipients, which are defined as anything of value that can be converted into cash. The assets considered in determining TANF eligibility are:

  • Property
  • Vehicles
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Cash on hand

TANF applicants will have their assets evaluated by their specific TANF program office. If they reside in an area that imposes a limit, they will only be eligible for cash assistance if their assets do not exceed the limit.

TANF Program Requirements in U.S. States and Territories

The chart below provides information about income, work activity and behavioral requirements in all 50 states and U.S. territories. The income column includes the gross monthly income limits for three-person households (one caretaker relative and two children) as an example. 

To calculate your specific income limit, use the link in the “Income Limit Generator” column to find your location’s estimator tool. An “N/A” in this column means that an income generator is not available on your location’s website.

The weekly work activity hours columns in the chart include information for families with one caretaker relative and a child younger than six years of age. Some states and territories may have different work activity hour requirements for different family makeups. Contact your state or territory’s TANF program to inquire about work activity hours using the contact information in this guide under “TANF Program Names and Contact Information Directory.”

LocationMaximum Gross Monthly IncomeIncome Limit GeneratorWeekly Work Activity Hours (One Caretaker + Child Younger Than 6)School Attendance RequirementImmunization RequirementAsset Requirement
AL$215https://dhr.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/DHR-FAD-595-1.pdf 20YesNoNo
AK$2,889 N/A20NoNo$2,000
AZ$1,778https://des.az.gov/services/child-and-family/cash-assistance/cash-assistance-ca-income-eligibility-guidelines 20YesYes***
AR$223 N/A20YesYes***
CA**$3,304N/A20YesYes***
CO$511*N/A20NoNoNo
CT**$908N/A20NoNo$3,000
DE $2,468https://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dss/tanf.html 30YesYes***
DC$818https://dhs.dc.gov/service/tanf-district-families 20NoNo$2,000
FL$303https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/access/docs/tcafactsheet.pdf 20YesYes$2,000
GA$784N/A30YesYes$1,000
GU**20YesNoNo
HI$2,941N/A20NoNoNo
ID$389https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/services-programs/financial-assistance/apply-tafi  20NoNo***
IL$837*N/A30YesNoNo
IN$592https://www.in.gov/fssa/dfr/2684.htm 20YesNo$1,000
IA$1,061*N/A20NoNo***
KS$519*N/A20NoNo$2,250
KY$974https://chfs.ky.gov/agencies/dcbs/dfs/fssb/Documents/KTAPIncomeLimits1.doc 20NoNo***
LA$240http://www.dss.state.la.us/page/139 20NoYesNo
ME$1,023*N/A20NoNo***
MD$795*N/A20NoNoNo
MA$633https://www.mass.gov/service-details/check-tafdc-eligibility-and-how-to-apply 20NoNo$5,000
MI$803* N/A20YesYes$15,000
MN$1,089*N/A20NoNo$10,000
MS$680https://www.mdhs.ms.gov/economic-assistance/tanf/ 20YesYes$2,000
MO$557*N/A20NoNo$1,000
MT$1,092https://dphhs.mt.gov/hcsd/tanf/tanfeligibility 20NoNo$3,000
NE$991*N/A20NoNo***
NV$1,660*N/A20YesYes$6,000
NH$844*N/A20NoNo$1,000
NJ$636*N/A20NoNo***
NM$1,778N/A20NoNo***
NY**$879*N/A20NoNo***
NC$681*N/A35NoNo***
ND$1,331*N/A20NoNo$3,000
OH$840N/A20NoNoNo
OK$824*N/A20NoNo***
OR$616*N/A20NoNo***
PA**$677*N/A20No No$1,000
PRInformation not availableN/AInformation not availableInformation not availableInformation not availableInformation not available
RI$1,277*N/A20NoNo$1,000
SC$1,524*N/A20NoNo***
SD$837*N/A20NoNo***
TN$1,315*N/A20YesYes***
TX$206https://yourtexasbenefits.hhsc.texas.gov/programs/tanf/families 20YesYes***
USVIN/AN/A20NoNo$2,000
UT$668*N/A20NoNo***
VT**$1,103*N/A20NoNo***
VA**$640*N/A20YesYesNo
WA$1,042*N/A20YesNo$6,000
WV$565*N/A20NoNo***
WI$2,082https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/manuals/w-2-manual/Production/default.htm 20YesNo$2,500
WY$1,251*N/A20NoNo$5,000

How to Apply for TANF Benefits

older man with younger woman looking at computer applying for tanf

To receive TANF benefits, you must apply through your location’s TANF program. Depending on the area in which you live, you may be able to apply using the following methods:

  • Online
  • In person
  • By mail
  • By fax

After completing the application in your area, you need to attend an interview with a TANF program representative. Then, you will receive a decision from the TANF program office. If you are approved, you will receive cash benefits to use for food, clothing and other necessary expenses.

The TANF application process varies depending on where you live, but there is a general application process that you must follow to receive assistance.

  1. Find your state or territory’s TANF program. 
  1. Choose your application method. 
    • Depending on your TANF program, you may be able to apply online, in person, by mail or by fax.
  1. Gather all required documents. 
  1. Attend a TANF interview
    • Regardless of where you live, you must attend an in-person interview with a TANF program caseworker.
  1. Receive a decision. 
    • Your local TANF program will notify you of your approval or denial within 60 days of applying.

Information and Documents Needed to Apply

During the TANF application process, you will be required to provide certain personal, financial and household information along with documents to verify your information. The specific information and documents you need to provide depend on whether you are applying as a needy or non-needy caretaker relative. Non-needy caretakers must only meet income requirements; needy caretakers must meet all requirements. 

You will be asked to provide the following types of information:

Your Personal Information

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Citizenship status
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Address
  • Phone number

Personal Information for Everyone in Your Household

  • Full names
  • Dates of birth
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Citizenship statuses 
  • Marital statuses 
  • Each member’s relationship to you

Household Details

  • Disability statuses 
  • Criminal convictions
  • Veteran statuses

Income Details

  • Name and address of your employer
  • Annual income
  • Income from other public assistance programs
  • Income from other sources, including self-employment

Assets and Resources

  • Property 
  • Vehicles
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Cash on hand

Recurring Expenses

  • Rent or mortgage payments
  • Child care costs
  • Medical bills
  • Credit card bills
  • Transportation costs

You will also need to provide documents that verify the information you provide on your TANF application.

Documents Verifying Personal Information

  • Driver’s license
  • Birth certificate
  • U.S. or foreign passport
  • Immigration documents (Permanent Resident Card or Certificate of Naturalization)

Documents Verifying State Residency

  • A voter’s registration card
  • Utility bills or another official piece of mail
  • Bank statements
  • Rent receipt
  • Tax receipt

Documents Verifying Proof of Income

  • Recent pay stubs
  • Employment statement that includes income
  • Tax returns
  • Retirement, disability or other benefit award letters

Documents Verifying Assets

  • Mortgage documents
  • Lease documents
  • Vehicle purchase documents

Documents Verifying Household Relationships

  • Marriage license
  • Adoption papers
  • Birth certificate
  • Public health records

Documents Verifying Disabilities

  • Retirement, survivors or disability insurance receipt
  • Statement from a medical professional
  • Copy of medical examination report

TANF Services by Location

As mentioned above, services vary by state and territory depending on what a local TANF program decides to provide. Find out about the services available in your location below.

LocationCash BenefitsChild Care AssistanceJob PreparationWork Assistance
AlabamaXXX
AlaskaXXXX
ArizonaXXX
ArkansasXXXX
CaliforniaXXXX
ColoradoXXX
ConnecticutXXX
DelawareXXX
District of ColumbiaXXXX
FloridaXXX
GeorgiaXXX
GuamXXXX
HawaiiXXXX
IdahoXXXX
IllinoisXXX
IndianaXXX
IowaXXXX
KansasXXX
KentuckyXXXX
LouisianaXXX
MaineXXXX
MarylandXXX
MassachusettsXXXX
MichiganXXXX
MinnesotaXXX
MississippiXXXX
MissouriXXX
MontanaXXXX
NebraskaXXX
NevadaXXXX
New HampshireXXXX
New JerseyXXX
New MexicoXXX
New YorkXXXX
North CarolinaXXXX
North DakotaXXX
OhioXXXX
Oklahoma XXXX
OregonXXXX
PennsylvaniaXXXX
Puerto RicoXXXX
Rhode IslandXXXX
South CarolinaXXXX
South DakotaXXXX
TennesseeXXXX
TexasXXX
U.S. Virgin IslandsXXX
UtahXXX
VermontXXX
VirginiaXXXX
WashingtonXXXX
West VirginiaXXX
WisconsinXXXX
WyomingXXXX

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