Your Free Guide to TANF

Your Free Guide to TANF

You will learn about:
  • All the different ways to apply for TANF in your state
  • The requirements you need to meet to get TANF benefits
  • How to contact your state's TANF program and more!

149 min – Estimated reading time

Your Free Guide to TANF

Your Free Guide to TANF

tanf guide cover

What is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program?

happy family tanf program

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 families on a monthly basis. Each state, U.S. territory and tribe has its own separate TANF program. These state-administered programs can also choose to provide job preparation, work assistance and child care assistance. 

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

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

Basic Eligibility

There are general TANF eligibility guidelines that all programs use to determine who qualifies for assistance. These are:

  • Have a child 18 years or younger OR be pregnant. (Children who are 19 years of age and full-time students are still eligible.)
  • 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.

Since TANF is administered by each state, territory or tribe, the specific eligibility requirements vary. See the section “TANF Program Requirements in U.S. States and Territories” of this guide for a list of eligibility guidelines by location.

Federal TANF Contact Information

TANF is administered by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA), which is overseen by the larger Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). For general questions about TANF, contact the OFA in any of the following ways:

By mail to:
Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families
Office of Family Assistance
330 C Street SW
Washington, DC 20201

TANF Programs and Contact Information for U.S. States and Territories

LocationTANF Program NameAdministrative OfficePhone NumberWhere to Find Local Office Contact Info
AlabamaFamily Assistance Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR)(334) 242-1773https://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 Assistance Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES)(855) 432-7587https://azdes-community.secure.force.com/EOL/ 
ArkansasTransitional Employment Assistance (TEA)Arkansas Division of Workforce (ADWS)(501) 682-2121https://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) 866-5700 https://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) 372-2022https://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dss/ofclocations.html 
District of ColumbiaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Department of Human Services (DHS) (202) 671-4200https://dhs.dc.gov/service/find-service-center-near-you 
FloridaTemporary Cash Assistance (TCA) Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF)(850) 300-4323https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/access/map.shtml 
GeorgiaTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) (877) 423-4746https://dfcs.georgia.gov/locations 
GuamCash AssistanceDepartment of Health and Human Services (DHHS)(671) 475-2653http://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 Idaho (TAFI)Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW)(877) 456-1233https://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) 403-0864https://secure.in.gov/fssa/dfr/2999.htm 
IowaFamily Investment Program (FIP) Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS)(800) 972-2017https://dhs.iowa.gov/dhs_office_locator 
KansasSuccessful Families ProgramKansas Department of Children and Families (DCF)(888) 369-4777http://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 Assistance Program (FITAP)Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS)(888) 524-3578http://www.dcfs.la.gov/directory 
MaineTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)(855) 797-4357https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/about/contact/offices 
MarylandTemporary Cash Assistance (TCA)Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS)(800) 332-6347 https://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 AssistanceMichigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)(517) 241-3740https://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)(601) 359-4500https://www.mdhs.ms.gov/local-mdhs-offices/ 
MissouriTemporary Assistance (TA)Missouri 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) 706-1535https://dphhs.mt.gov/hcsd/OfficeofPublicAssistance 
NebraskaAid 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)(800) 792-9773https://www.nj.gov/humanservices/njsnap/home/cbss.shtml 
New MexicoTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) New Mexico Human Services Department (HSD) (800) 432-6217https://www.hsd.state.nm.us/lookingforassistance/field_offices_1/
New YorkFamily Assistance (FA) 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) 328-2310https://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)(405) 522-5050https://oklahoma.gov/okdhs/contact-us/dhsofficelocations.html
OregonTemporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS)(503) 945-5600 https://www.oregon.gov/DHS/Offices/Pages/Self-Sufficiency.aspx 
Pennsylvania Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS)(800) 692-7462https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/CAO-Contact.aspx 
Puerto RicoPrograma de Ayuda Temporal para Familias Necesitadas (TANF)Administracion de Desarrollo Socioeconomico de la Familia (ADSEF)(787) 289-7600 ext. 2515https://servicios.adsef.pr.gov/views/programa/programaAyudaTemporalFamiliasNecesitadas.aspx 
Rhode IslandRI Works (RIW)Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS)(855) 697-4347https://dhs.ri.gov/about-us/dhs-offices
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 First Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS)(866) 311-4287 https://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) 776-6334
St. Croix: (340) 718-2980
http://www.dhs.gov.vi/contact/index.html 
UtahFamily Employment ProgramUtah 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) 726-7000 https://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/office-locations
West VirginiaWV Works Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR)(304) 558-0628http://dhhr.wv.gov/bcf/Documents/DHHR.BCF.LocalOffices.pdf 
WisconsinWisconsin Works (W-2)Wisconsin W-2 Agency(855) 757-4539https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/w2/parents/locator 
WyomingPOWER Work ProgramWyoming Department of Family Services (DFS)(307) 777-7564https://dfs.wyo.gov/contact-us/ 

TANF for tribal nations is administered by specific tribal organizations rather than state departments.

For more information on how to get in contact with an office, refer to the section called “Tribal TANF Contact Information” in this guide. 

TANF Services Provided in U.S. States and Territories

TANF is operated separately in each state, territory and tribe. As such, the services differ among each specific TANF program. The chart below provides information about all services offered in each location.

LocationCash BenefitsChild Care AssistanceJob PreparationWork Assistance
AlabamaYesYesYes
AlaskaYesYesYesYes
ArizonaYesYesYes
ArkansasYesYesYesYes
CaliforniaYesYesYesYes
ColoradoYesYesYes
ConnecticutYesYesYes
DelawareYesYesYes
District of ColumbiaYesYesYesYes
FloridaYesYesYes
GeorgiaYesYesYes
GuamYesYesYesYes
HawaiiYesYesYesYes
IdahoYesYesYesYes
IllinoisYesYesYes
IndianaYesYesYes
IowaYesYesYesYes
KansasYesYesYes
KentuckyYesYesYesYes
LouisianaYesYesYes
MaineYesYesYesYes
MarylandYesYesYes
MassachusettsYesYesYesYes
MichiganYesYesYesYes
MinnesotaYesYesYes
MississippiYesYesYesYes
MissouriYesYesYes
MontanaYesYesYesYes
NebraskaYesYesYes
Nevada YesYesYesYes
New HampshireYesYesYesYes
New JerseyYesYesYes
New MexicoYesYesYes
New YorkYesYesYesYes
North CarolinaYesYesYesYes
North DakotaYesYesYes
OhioYesYesYesYes
OklahomaYesYesYesYes
OregonYesYesYesYes
PennsylvaniaYesYesYesYes
Puerto RicoYesYesYesYes
Rhode IslandYesYesYesYes
South CarolinaYesYesYesYes
South DakotaYesYesYesYes
TennesseeYesYesYesYes
TexasYesYesYes
U.S. Virgin IslandsYesYesYes
UtahYesYesYes
VermontYesYesYes
VirginiaYesYesYesYes
WashingtonYesYesYesYes
West VirginiaYesYesYes
WisconsinYesYesYesYes
WyomingYesYesYesYes

TANF Program Eligibility Requirements

african american family laughing tanf eligibility requirements

There are certain program requirements you must meet in order to receive TANF benefits. Since TANF is operated independently in each state, territory and tribe, these requirements vary. TANF programs use the following standards to determine eligibility.

Income Requirements

Cash assistance from TANF is available to families and individuals with incomes below the location’s median household income. You can find the most recent median household income data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau on the website here: https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/2019-median-household-income.html. Your income must be less than 50 percent of the amount for your area.

TANF program income limits are determined based on:

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

Work Activity Requirements

Adult TANF recipients are required to be employed or participate in work activities as a condition of receiving TANF cash benefits. 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. The minimum number of hours of work search activities is 20 hours per week for single parents and 30 hours per week for two-parent households.

Behavioral Requirements

Some states, territories and tribes have certain behavioral requirements for TANF recipients. The behavioral requirements typically are mandatory school attendance and medical immunizations. Programs with these requirements will limit or deny TANF cash benefits to applicants if school-age children are not attending school or if medical immunizations are not maintained.

Asset Requirements

Many states impose limits on assets, which are defined as anything of value that can be converted into cash. The assets considered in determining TANF eligibility are divided into two categories:

  • Liquid assets – these are resources that are readily available, like cash, checking accounts, savings accounts, stocks, bonds, and savings certificates.
  • Nonliquid assets – these are resources that can be converted into cash, like vehicles, land, buildings, and other types of property.

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 parent 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 parent and a child younger than six as well as families with two parents as examples.

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 the section “TANF Programs and Contact Information for U.S. States and Territories.”

StateMaximum Gross Monthly IncomeIncome Limit GeneratorWeekly Work Activity Hours (One Parent + Child Younger Than 6)Weekly Work Activity Hours (Two Parents)School Attendance RequirementImmunization RequirementAsset Requirement
AL$215https://dhr.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/DHR-FAD-595-1.pdf 2030YesNoNo
AK$3,089http://dpaweb.hss.state.ak.us/POLICY/PDF/TA-Standards.pdf240 in core work activities, with additional 10 in work-related30 in core work activities, with additional 5 in work-relatedYesYes for children under 5$2,000; $3,000 if family has a member age 60 or older
AZ$1,830https://des.az.gov/services/child-and-family/cash-assistance/cash-assistance-ca-income-eligibility-guidelines 2040YesYes***
AR$223N/A2040YesYes$3,000
CA**$1,539 in Region 1;$1,460 in Region 2https://ca.db101.org/ca/programs/income_support/calworks/program2.htm2055YesYes$10,211 or $15,317 if family has a member age 60 or older or who is diabled
CO$421https://www.bouldercounty.org/families/food/housing-and-human-services-program-income-limits/2030NoNoNo
CT**$589 – $698N/A2035YesYes$3,000
DE $2,540https://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dss/tanf.html 3035YesYes***
DC$712https://dhs.dc.gov/service/tanf-district-families 2030NoNo$2,000
FL$303https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/access/docs/tcafactsheet.pdf 2035 YesYes$2,000
GA$784N/A3030YesYes$1,000
GU**2040YesNoNo
HI$2,941N/A2020NoNoNo
ID$389https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/services-programs/financial-assistance/apply-tafi2030 NoNo***
ILN/A3035YesNoNo
IN$592https://www.in.gov/fssa/dfr/2684.htm Attend Applicant Job Search Orientation
and complete 20 days of Applicant Job Search
activities

Attend Applicant Job Search Orientation and complete 20 days of Applicant Job Search activitiesNoNo$1,000
IA$1,570https://www.law.cornell.edu/regulations/iowa/Iowa-Admin-Code-r-441-41-282035NoNo$2,000
KS$519N/A2030NoNo$2,250
KY$974https://chfs.ky.gov/agencies/dcbs/dfs/fssb/Documents/KTAPIncomeLimits1.doc [Word doc. download]2030 NoNo***
LA$484http://www.dss.state.la.us/page/139 2030YesNo***
ME$763https://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/rules/10/144/144c331.docx (Word doc download, page 154)2035NoNo$2,000
MD$624https://www.peoples-law.org/temporary-cash-assistance-tca2030Yes, at least 80% of the timeNoNo
MA$712 – $752 or $3,838 if teen parent living with parentshttps://www.mass.gov/service-details/check-tafdc-eligibility-and-how-to-apply 2030NoNoNo
MI$2,598https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-71547_5531-15410–,00.html2030YesYes$15,000 and $200,000 or less in property assets
MS$680https://www.mdhs.ms.gov/economic-assistance/tanf/ 2030YesYes$2,000
MN$1,308https://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/idcplg?IdcService=GET_DYNAMIC_CONVERSION&dDocName=cm_002009&RevisionSelectionMethod=LatestReleased2030NoNo$10,000
MO$3,504 per yearhttps://mydss.mo.gov/media/pdf/benefit-program-limit-chart2035NoNo$1,000
MT$1,092https://dphhs.mt.gov/hcsd/TANF2030NoNo$3,000
NE$1,019N/A2035YesNo***
NV$2,116https://dwss.nv.gov/TANF/TANF_FAQ-Eligibility_Criteria-Income-Consid-2/2035YesYes$6,000
NH$3,939https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/fam_htm/newfam.htm2030NoNo$1,000
NJ$839https://www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/workfirstnj/tanf_2021_23_st_plan.pdf (Schedule 1, Attachment B2035NoNo$2,000
NM$1,830https://www.hsd.state.nm.us/uploads/FileLinks/26463f122f47474487faee4922e09ce8/FPG_Cards_FY_2020_revised_12919_3.pdf 2035NoNo$1,500
NY**$1,830https://otda.ny.gov/policy/gis/2021/21DC017.pdf2030YesNo$2,000 or $3,000 if over age 60
NC$544http://www.mcdowellcountyncdss.org/economic-services/work-first/work-first-family-assistance-program3555NoNo$3,000
NDN/A2030NoNo$3,000 for one individual, $6,000 for a household of two individuals, and an
additional $25 per person for households of three or more.
OH$915https://jfs.ohio.gov/ofam/OWFPaymentStandards.stm3035NoNoNo
OK$1,193https://www.okdhslive.org/popups/IncomeStandardsPopup.aspx#s92030YesYes$2,250
OR$616https://jfs.ohio.gov/ofam/OWFPaymentStandards.stm2030NoNo$2,500, or $3,750 if over age 6
PA**$403N/A2030No No$250 for individual or $1,000 for more people in household
PRN/AInformation not availableInformation not availableInformation not availableInformation not availableInformation not available
RI$721http://www.economicprogressri.org/index.php/rhode-island-works-program-6/2030NoNo$1,000
SC$851N/A2035NoNo$2,500
SDN/A2030NoNo***
TN$1,919N/A2030YesYes$2,000
TX$188https://www.hhs.texas.gov/services/financial/cash/tanf-cash-help 3030 or 55 hours depending on receipt of TWC subsidized child careNoYes$3,839
USVIN/AN/A2030NoNo$2,000
UT$3,660https://jobs.utah.gov/infosource/EmploymentBusinessManual/700_Eligibility/726_Income_Guidelines__TANF_Needy_Family_-_Contracted_Services.htm2030NoNo***
VT**$891https://dcf.vermont.gov/sites/dcf/files/ESD/Docs/RU/VT%20State%20TANF%20Plan%20Amendment%20%282019%29.pdf2030NoNo$9,000
VA**$1,017https://www.arlingtonva.us/Government/Departments/DHS/Public-Assistance/Temporary-Assistance-Needy-Families-TANF2030YesYesNo
WA$1,308https://app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=388-478-00352030YesNo$6,000
WV$6,238https://dhhr.wv.gov/bcf/Services/familyassistance/IMMDocuments/Binder4.pdf (page 391)2030NoNo$2,000
WI$2,207https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/manuals/w-2-manual/Production/default.htm2030YesNo$2,500
WY$1,099 – $1,926https://dfs.wyo.gov/about/policy-manuals/snap-and-power-policy-manual/table-ii-power-income-limits/2030NoNo$5,000

TANF Application Process

mom playing with child tanf application process

If you are interested in receiving 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
  • By email

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.

Find out more about what cash benefits can be used for in the section “What can I purchase with TANF cash benefits?” in this guide.

How to Apply for TANF Benefits

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, territory or tribe’s TANF program. For a list of state and territory TANF program contact information, see the section “TANF Programs and Contact Information for U.S. States and Territories“. For Tribal TANF contact information, refer to the section “Tribal TANF Contact Information“.
  1. Choose your application method. Depending on your TANF program, you can apply online, in person, by mail or by fax.
  1. Gather all required documents. See the sections below for a complete list of necessary information and 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 state, territory or tribe’s TANF program will notify you of your approval or denial within 60 days of applying.

Information Needed for a TANF Application

TANF applications require you to submit the following information:

Your personal information. You will need to provide your full name, date of birth, citizenship status, Social Security Number (SSN), address and phone number.

Personal information for everyone in your household. You must provide the full names, dates of birth, SSNs, citizenship statuses and marital statuses for each person in your household. You must also provide information about each person’s relationship to you.

Household details. You must disclose any disabilities, criminal convictions, veteran statuses or other information requested by your TANF caseworker.

Income details. You must include the following income-related information:

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

Assets and resources. You must provide information about your property, vehicles and cash on hand. 

Recurring expenses. You need to list all of your monthly expenses, including rent or mortgage payments, child care costs, medical bills, credit card bills, transportation costs and any other recurring monthly costs.

Documents Needed to Complete a TANF Application

There are certain documents you will need to submit to your TANF program agency so that a caseworker can verify the information you provided in the 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 

Having these documents on hand will allow you to provide the most accurate information during the application process. If your application has errors or false information, your application may be denied. 

You must answer every question on the application. Leaving a question blank is another reason your application can be denied. 

How to Apply for TANF in U.S. States and Territories

Alabama

Apply for Family Assistance by mail or in person:

By Mail

Complete this form: https://dhr.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/DHR-FAD-690.pdf 

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Human Resources (DHR) office. Find an office here: https://dhr.alabama.gov/county-office-contact/  

Alaska

Apply for Alaska Temporary Assistance Program (ATAP) by mail or in person:

By Mail

Complete the form found here: http://dpaweb.hss.state.ak.us/e-forms/pdf/GEN-50C.pdf

In Person

Apply at your local Division of Public Assistance. Find an office here: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dpa/Pages/contacts.aspx 

Arizona

Apply for Cash Assistance Online, By Mail or in Person

Online

https://des.az.gov/services/basic-needs/food-assistance/applying-nutrition-assistance/health-e-arizona-plus-application 

By mail

Complete this form: https://des.az.gov/sites/default/files/dl/FAA-0001A.pdf?time=1588543539264 

In person

Apply in person at your local Department of Economic Security (DES) office. Find an office here: https://des.az.gov/find-your-local-office 

Arkansas

Apply for Transitional Employment Assistance Online, By Mail or in Person

Online

https://access.arkansas.gov/  

By Mail

Complete this form: https://www.dws.arkansas.gov/src/files/Application-for-TEA-Benefits.pdf 

In Person

Apply in person at your local Division of Workforce (ADWS) office. Find an office here: https://www.dws.arkansas.gov/contact/   

California

Apply for CalWORKS Online or in Person

Online

http://www.benefitscal.org/ 

In Person

Apply in person at your local Department of Social Services (DSS). Find an office here: https://www.cdss.ca.gov/county-offices  

Colorado

Apply for Colorado Works Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://coloradopeak.secure.force.com/

By Mail

Complete this form: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9eaXW7_92zSZjA5djJoX1JxSWc/view 

In Person

Apply in person at your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office. Find an office here: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdhs/contact-your-county 

Connecticut

Apply for Temporary Family Assistance (TFA) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://connect.ct.gov/access/jsp/access/Home.jsp

By Mail

Use this form: https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/Departments-and-Agencies/DSS/Common-Applications/Application-for-Benefits-W-1E.pdf?la=en  

In Person

Apply in person at your local Department of Social Services (DSS). Find an office here: https://portal.ct.gov/DSS/About-the-Department-of-Social-Services/Contact

District of Columbia

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://dcbenefits.dhs.dc.gov/ 

By Mail

Use this form: https://dhs.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/dhs/publication/attachments/Combined_Application_December-2015_%28English_%202_0.pdf  

In Person

In person at your local Department of Human Services (DHS). Find an office here: https://dhs.dc.gov/node/117522 

Delaware

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://assist.dhss.delaware.gov/

By Mail

Use this form: https://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dss/files/form100e.pdf

In Person

Apply in person at your local Division of Social Services (DSS). Find an office here: https://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dss/ofclocations.html  

Florida

Apply for Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) Online, By Mail or in Person

Online

http://www.myflorida.com/accessflorida/

By Mail

Use this form: https://eds.myflfamilies.com/DCFFormsInternet/Search/OpenDCFForm.aspx?FormId=645  

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Children and Families (DCF) office. Find an office here: https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/access/map.shtml

Georgia

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) by Mail or in Person

By Mail

Download the proper form here: https://dfcs.georgia.gov/services/temporary-assistance-needy-families 

In Person

Apply in person at your local Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) office. Find an office here: https://dfcs.georgia.gov/locations 

Guam

Apply for Cash Assistance by Mail / Email or in Person.

Mail / Email

Use this form: http://dphss.guam.gov//wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Application-for-Public-Benefits-form-APPROVEDVERSION.pdf

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Health and Human Services office. Find an office here: http://dphss.guam.gov/contact-us-2/ 

Hawaii

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) by Mail or in Person

By Mail

Use this form: http://humanservices.hawaii.gov/bessd/files/2015/12/BESSD-Application_June-2015.v2.pdf 

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office. Find an office here: https://humanservices.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Statewide-Processing-Centers-04-2018.pdf 

Idaho

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Families in Idaho (TAFI) by Mail or in Person

By Mail

Use this form: https://publicdocuments.dhw.idaho.gov/WebLink/DocView.aspx?id=1577&dbid=0&repo=PUBLIC-DOCUMENTS

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) office. Find an office here: https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/offices 

Illinois

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://abe.illinois.gov/abe/access/

By Mail

Use this form: http://www.dhs.state.il.us/onenetlibrary/12/documents/Forms/IL444-2378B-IES.pdf

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office. Find an office here: http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?module=12 

Indiana

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online or in Person

Online

https://fssabenefits.in.gov/bp/#/

By mail

With this form: https://dhs.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/470-5170.pdf?111720211831

In Person

Apply at your local Division of Family Resources (DFR) office. Find an office here: https://dhs.iowa.gov/dhs_office_locator

Iowa

Apply for Family Investment Program (FIP) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://secureapp.dhs.state.ia.us/oasis/OASIS0100.aspx

By Mail

Use this form: https://dhs.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/470-0462.pdf?050420200001

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office. Find an office here: https://dhs.iowa.gov/dhs_office_locator 

Kansas

Apply for the Successful Families Program Online or in Person:

Online

https://cssp.kees.ks.gov/apspssp/sspNonMed.portal

In Person

In person at your local Department of Children and Families (DCF) office. Find an office here: http://www.dcf.ks.gov/services/Pages/DCFOfficeLocatorMap.aspx 

Kentucky

Apply for the Successful Families Program Online or in Person.

Online

https://benefind.ky.gov/

In Person

Apply at your local Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) office. Find an office here: https://chfs.ky.gov/agencies/dcbs/dsr/Pages/default.aspx 

Louisiana

Apply for Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP) Online, by Mail or in Person.

Online

https://sspweb.ie.dcfs.la.gov/selfservice/selfserviceJSPController?id=0.8711212085344364&tab=1&fromPilot=true

By Mail

Use this form: http://www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/assets/docs/searchable/EconomicStability/Applications/OFS%20English%20Combined.pdf 

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Find an office here: http://www.dcfs.la.gov/directory

Maine

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://www1.maine.gov/benefits/account/login.html

By Mail

Use this form: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ofi/public-assistance/pdf/GeneralApp-080117.pdf

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Find an office here: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/offices.shtml 

Maryland

Apply for Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) Online or in Person

Online

https://mydhrbenefits.dhr.state.md.us/dashboardClient/#/home

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Human Services (DHS). Find an office here: http://dhr.maryland.gov/local-offices/ 

Massachusetts

Apply for Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) Online or in Person:

Online

https://dtaconnect.eohhs.mass.gov/?_ga=2.76359189.108031085.1589175228-1996710348.1588532120

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) office. Find an office here: https://www.mass.gov/economic-assistance-cash-benefits/locations?_page=1 

Michigan

Apply for Cash Assistance Online, by Mail or by Phone

Online

https://newmibridges.michigan.gov/s/isd-landing-page?language=en_US

By Mail

 Use this form: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdhhs/MDHHS-1171_Assistance_Application_and_Program_Supplements_616030_7.pdf

In Person

Apply at your local Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) office. Find an office here: https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-73970_5461—,00.html

Minnesota

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://applymn.dhs.mn.gov/online-app-web/spring/public/process-login?execution=e2s1

By Mail

Use this form: https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Public/DHS-5223-ENG-pform

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Health (MDH) office. Find an office here: https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Public/DHS-0005-ENG 

Mississippi

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online or in Person

Online

https://www.access.ms.gov/Application

In Person

Apply at your local Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) office. Find an office here: https://www.mdhs.ms.gov/contact/ 

Missouri

Apply for Temporary Assistance (TA) Online or in Person

Online

https://apps.dss.mo.gov/fmwBenefitCenter/Account/SignInInfo.aspx

In Person

Apply in person at your local Department of Social Services (DSS) office. Find an office here: https://dss.mo.gov/dss_map/

Montana

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online or in Person

Online

https://apply.mt.gov/access/accessController?id=0.002241630946912321

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) office. Find an office here: https://dphhs.mt.gov/hcsd/OfficeofPublicAssistance 

Nebraska

Apply for Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://dhhs-access-neb-menu.ne.gov/start/?tl=en

By Mail

Use this form: http://public-dhhs.ne.gov/Forms/DisplayPDF.aspx?item=378 

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) office. Find an office here: http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Public-Assistance-Offices.aspx 

Nevada

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://accessnevada.dwss.nv.gov/public/landing-page

By Mail

Use this form: https://dwss.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/dwssnvgov/content/Home/Features/Forms/2905-EG_Application%20for%20Assistance.pdf

In Person

Apply at your local Division of Welfare and Social Services (DWSS) office. Find an office here: https://dwss.nv.gov/Contact/Welfare/

New Hampshire

Apply for Financial Assistance for Needy Families (FANF) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://nheasy.nh.gov/#/

By Mail

Use this form: https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dfa/documents/dfa-800-eng.pdf

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) office. Find an office here: https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/contactus/districtoffices.htm 

New Jersey

Online

https://www.njhelps.org/NJHelpsHomePage

In person

Apply for Work First NJ (WFNJ) in person at your local Division of Family Development (DFD) office. Find an office here: https://www.nj.gov/humanservices/dfd/programs/njsnap/cbss/index.html 

New Mexico

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Online

https://www.yes.state.nm.us/yesnm/home/index

In Person

Apply at your local Human Services Department (HSD) office. Find an office here: https://www.hsd.state.nm.us/lookingforassistance/field_offices_1/

New York

Apply for Family Assistance (FA)

Online

https://mybenefits.ny.gov/mybenefits/begin

By Mail

Use this form: https://otda.ny.gov/programs/applications/2921.pdf

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Social Services (DSS) office. Find an office here: https://otda.ny.gov/workingfamilies/dss.asp

North Carolina

Apply for Work First (WF)In person at your local Department of Social Services (DSS) office.

Find an office here: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/social-services/local-dss-directory

North Dakota

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://www.nd.gov/dhs/eligibility/index.html

By Mail

Use this form: https://www.nd.gov/dhs/info/pubs/docs/sfn-405-application-for-assistance.pdf

In Person

In person at your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office. Find an office here: http://www.nd.gov/dhs/locations/countysocialserv/index.html 

Ohio

Apply for Ohio Works First (OWF) Online or in Person

Online

https://benefits.ohio.gov/

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Jobs and Family Services (JFS) office. Find an office here: http://jfs.ohio.gov/County/County_Directory.pdf 

Oklahoma

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online or in Person

Online

http://www.okdhslive.org/

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office. Find an office here: https://oklahoma.gov/okdhs/contact-us/dhsofficelocations.html

Oregon

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Online

https://one.oregon.gov

By Mail

Use this form: https://apps.state.or.us/Forms/Served/de0415f.pdf

In Person

Apply in person at your local Self-Sufficiency Office. Find an office here: https://www.oregon.gov/DHS/Offices/Pages/Self-Sufficiency.aspx

Pennsylvania

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://www.compass.state.pa.us/compass.web/Public/CMPHome

By Mail

Use this form: https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Documents/Benefits%20Applications/PA-600-2-20-Final.pdf 

In Person

Apply at your local County Assistance Office (CAO). Find an office here: https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/CAO-Contact.aspx 

Puerto Rico

Apply for Programa de Ayuda Temporal para Familias Necesitadas Online or in Person

Online

http://servicios.adsef.gobierno.pr/

In Person

Apply at your local Departamento de la Familia (DF) office. Find an office here: https://311prkb.respondcrm.com/respondweb/Directorio%20de%20Agencia%20(ADSEF)/ADSEF-000-Directorio%20de%20Agencia.pdf 

Rhode Island

Apply for RI Works (RIW) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://healthyrhode.ri.gov/HIXWebI3/DisplayHomePage

By Mail

Use this form: http://www.dhs.ri.gov/assets/documents/DHS-2ApplicationForAssistanceRev09-16.pdf

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office. Find an office here: https://dhs.ri.gov/about-us/dhs-offices

South Carolina

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://benefitsportal.dss.sc.gov/#/login

By Mail

Use this form: https://dss.sc.gov/media/1784/dss-form-3800-aug-18.pdf

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Social Services (DSS) office. Find an office here: https://dss.sc.gov/contact/ 

South Dakota

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) In person at your local Department of Social Services (DSS) office. Find an office here: https://dss.sd.gov/findyourlocaloffice/ 

Tennessee

Apply for Families First Online or in Person

Online

https://faonlineapp.dhs.tn.gov/

In Person

Apply at your local Family Assistance office. Find an office here: https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/humanservices/for-families/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap/office-locator-family-assistance.html 

Texas

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online, by Mail or in Person

Online

https://www.yourtexasbenefits.com/Learn/Home#login

By Mail

Use this form:  https://www.yourtexasbenefits.com/GeneratePDF/StaticPdfs/en_US/H1010_May2018.pdf

In Person

Apply at your local benefits office. Find an office here: https://www.yourtexasbenefits.com/Screener/FindanOffice 

U.S. Virgin Islands

Apply for TANF by Mail or in Person

By Mail

Use this form: http://www.dhs.gov.vi/financial_programs/documents/Combined_Food_and_Cash_Application_Form.pdf

In Person

Apply in person at your local Department of Human Services Office. Find an office here: http://www.dhs.gov.vi/contact/index.html

Utah

Apply for Family Employment Program Online or in Person:

Online

https://jobs.utah.gov/mycase/

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Workforce Services (DWS) office. Find an office here: https://jobs.utah.gov/jsp/officesearch/ 

Vermont

Apply for Reach Up Online or inPerson

Online

https://dcf.vermont.gov/mybenefits

In Person

Apply at your local Department for Children and Families (DCF) office. Find an office here: https://dcf.vermont.gov/partners/cis 

Virginia

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online, By Mail or in Person

Online

https://commonhelp.virginia.gov/

By Mail

Use this form: https://www.dss.virginia.gov/files/division/bp/tanf/forms/032-03-0824-38-eng.pdf

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Social Services (DSS) office. Find an office here: https://www.dss.virginia.gov/localagency/index.cgi 

Washington

Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Online or in Person

Online

https://www.washingtonconnection.org/home/

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) office. Find an office here:  https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-offices/community-services-office 

West Virginia

Apply for WV WorksOnline or in Person

Online

https://www.wvpath.org/

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) office. Find an office here: http://dhhr.wv.gov/bcf/Documents/DHHR.BCF.LocalOffices.pdf 

Wisconsin

Apply for Wisconsin Works (W-2) in person at your local W-2 Agency. Find an office here: https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/w2/parents/locator 

Wyoming

Apply for POWER Work Program by mail or in Person

By Mail

Use this form: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1r9Supds1XkerGakMvZVUjK5hCyhfM-co/view

In Person

Apply at your local Department of Family Services (DFS) office. Find an office here:  https://dfs.wyo.gov/contact-us/ 

After Applying for TANF

mother and child after applying for tanf

Before receiving TANF benefits, you must attend a TANF interview with a program caseworker. This is your opportunity to provide additional information to make your case. 

If the caseworker determines that you satisfy all program requirements, you will receive an approval notice and be issued cash assistance. If your application is rejected during this interview, you will receive a notice of denial, which you can appeal. To learn more about the appeal process, refer to the section “TANF Denials and Appeals” in this guide.

TANF Interviews

A program caseworker will evaluate your application and documents in-person at a local TANF office and make a decision regarding your benefits. The purpose of the interview is to: 

  • Review your application documents and correct any mistakes
  • Address any questions and clarify program requirements
  • Develop a personalized plan for seeking or maintaining employment

Preparing for the TANF Interview 

Upon submitting your TANF application, you will receive a notice in the mail or by email that explains the documents you need to bring to the interview. In some cases, you may be asked to submit these documents by mail or online before the interview. 

Refer to the section titled “Documents Needed to Complete a TANF Application” in this guide for a complete list of acceptable documents. 

TANF interviews are scheduled within one month of submitting your application. Failing to appear for the interview results in an automatic denial. If you need to reschedule your initial interview, contact your assigned caseworker or your TANF program office. 

During the TANF Interview

During your interview, your caseworker will review the forms you submitted and the documents you provided and ask you questions related to the information. The caseworker may also ask you for additional information, which you must submit afterwards to support your application. 

All TANF programs have the authority to drug test applicants. To find out if your application process will include a drug test, talk to your caseworker or contact your TANF program. For a list of contact information and TANF website links, refer to the section “TANF Programs and Contact Information for U.S. States and Territories.”

After the interview, your TANF office will send you a notice of approval or denial by mail. It may take up to one week after the interview to receive the notice.

TANF Denials and Appeals

If your TANF application is denied, you can appeal the denial. An appeal is a written notice of disagreement that you file with your state, territory or tribe’s TANF department. When you are denied TANF benefits, the program office will send you a denial notice that includes instructions on how to initiate an appeal.

Common Reasons for Denial

If your TANF application is rejected, your denial letter will provide an explanation as to why you were denied benefits.

The most common reasons for denial are as follows: 

  • Your income is too high according to county or state requirements.
  • You failed to prove that you have child dependents.
  • Your application has incorrect information.
  • Your application is missing information.
  • The state believes you are underreporting your family income.
  • You have failed to maintain your child’s school attendance.
  • You have failed to provide supplementary documents in time.
  • You have failed to attend your required TANF appointments.
  • You have not completed pre-approval work requirements.
  • You have more assets than TANF eligibility requirements allow.
  • You do not cooperate with child support enforcement efforts.
man with form and computer tanf denials

When to File an Appeal

If you believe you were wrongly denied TANF benefits, you can appeal to your state, territory or tribal TANF program. Appeals are suited for situations that can be quickly corrected. If one of the below scenarios is the reason you were rejected, the appeal process may be quick and you should be accepted into TANF: 

  • If you made a mistake on your application
  • If you forgot to include necessary documents
  • If your income was reported incorrectly, but still meets the requirements.

There are some reasons for application being denied for which an appeal might not result in acceptance into the program.  For example, if your income is too high or you have too many assets, you cannot appeal the denial. You cannot change these factors, so an appeal would not change the outcome of the TANF program’s decision. 

How to Appeal a TANF Denial 

If your application is denied, you will receive a TANF denial notice. This notice will state both the reason you were rejected and the steps required to initiate an appeal. The appeal process may vary slightly in each state, territory or tribe. However, there is a standard procedure for starting the appeal process. 

  1. Receive a denial notice. Your local TANF program will send you a notice within 60 days of your application.
  2. Find the reason for denial. All TANF departments will provide the exact reason for your application’s rejection. 
  3. Draft a written appeal request. The request must mention that you are challenging the TANF application denial and that you would like a hearing. File as soon as you receive the denial notice. In most cases, you have 30 days or less to appeal the decision. The deadline to appeal will be written on your denial notice.
  4. Gather evidence. Depending on the reason for your denial, you will need to provide additional documents to prove your eligibility for TANF benefits. Refer to the section “Documents Needed to Complete a TANF Application” for a list of the documents needed to complete a TANF application.
  5. Attend an appeal hearing. This formal meeting is your opportunity to provide evidence and facts that prove your program eligibility. 
  6. Receive a written decision. Your state, territory or tribe’s TANF program will provide a written statement after your appeal indicating whether or not they have reversed the initial decision. In most cases, you will receive this within a few days of the hearing.

If your appeal is not granted and you are still denied TANF benefits, you can apply for the program in the future if your eligibility changes. 

To begin the appeal process, find out how to get in touch with your local office in the section called “TANF Programs and Contact Information for U.S. States and Territories“.

TANF Lifetime Limits and Extensions

Although TANF is operated by each state, territory or tribe, there is a federal lifetime limit on benefits of 60 months. This means TANF recipients can only receive benefits for a total of 60 months in their lifetime regardless of where they live. The 60 months do not have to be consecutive. 

Some states have shorter TANF limits than the federal lifetime limit. This means that even though recipients can collect cash assistance for up to 60 total months throughout the United States, they can only receive benefits in a specific location for a designated shorter amount of time. 

TANF programs do have the option of extending benefits to qualifying individuals under special circumstances using their own state funds. 

calendar tanf lifetime limits

Who is exempt from the TANF lifetime limit?

American Indian or Alaska Native recipients living in federally recognized Tribal Nations are exempt from the 60-month lifetime limit. Federal welfare reform law cites the difficulty for these recipients to find employment within their land, and applying a lifetime limit would require these recipients to find employment off their land. 

To learn more about which Tribal Nations are federally recognized, find a list here: https://www.usa.gov/tribes#item-37647.

For more information about American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal TANF programs, refer to the “Tribal TANF” section of this guide.

TANF Extension Eligibility

To extend your TANF benefits beyond the 60-month time limit, you must be experiencing a qualifying hardship or meet your program’s extension criteria. Qualifying hardships are defined as scenarios that prevent adult recipients from finding or keeping employment. These include:

  • Having (or having a child with) a physical disability
  • Being a victim of domestic violence
  • Having a mental illness
  • Having a drug or alcohol addiction
  • Becoming homeless
  • Being considered “at risk” of cruel conditions, battery or violence

TANF Extensions in U.S. States and Territories

The table below provides information about TANF extensions in each state and territory. Note that, for Tribal TANF, extension length and regulations are decided by the tribal organizations of the over 300 federally recognized tribes that participate in the program. Refer to the section “Tribal TANF” in this guide for more information on Tribal TANF.

The “Extension available?” column indicates whether recipients in that location are eligible to receive benefits beyond the 60-month time limit. 

The “Maximum Length of Extension” column denotes the number of additional months for which TANF recipients can receive benefits. 

The “Who qualifies?” column indicates the categories of recipients who can receive extensions. 

The “Do out-of-state TANF hours count?” column includes information about recipients that have received TANF funds in other states or locations. These months are also referred to as “federal TANF months.” Some locations count the months during which recipients received TANF benefits in other locations toward the new state’s overall time limit. Others only count the months in which recipients receive TANF benefits in that specific location. 

Note: An asterisk (*) denotes information that is not readily available on official TANF websites. Refer to the section “TANF Programs and Contact Information for U.S. States and Territories” of this guide for TANF contact information by location. 

LocationTime LimitExtension available?Maximum Length of ExtensionWho qualifies?Conditions of ExtensionDo out-of-state TANF hours count?
AL 60 months****Yes
AK 60 monthsYes12 months– Domestic violence
– Physical or mental inability to work
– Caring for a child or relative with disability
-Continue the Family Self Sufficiency Plan (FSSP): http://dpaweb.hss.state.ak.us/manuals/ta/719/719-1_self_sufficiency_planning_requirement.htm Yes
AZ 12 monthsYes12 monthsFamilies with qualifying hardshipWorking with TANF Jobs Program, starting a job that will begin during the extension period or have good cause not to do so
– Complete the request: https://des.az.gov/sites/default/files/dl/FAA-1440A.pdf?time=1593094512133 
Yes
AR 24 monthsYes36 months-Families with qualifying hardship

-Parents or caretakers age 60 or older
*Yes
CA 48 monthsYesUntil hardship resolvesFamilies with qualifying hardship– Disabled
Age 60 or older
– Caring for ill or incapacitated person living in your home
– Caring for a child at risk of being placed in foster care
– Victim of domestic abuse
– Living in Indian Country in which at least half of adults are unemployed
– Granted exemption to care for baby age 0-23 months
Yes
CO 60 monthsYes6-month periods as determined by caseworker– Domestic violence
– Disability
Involvement with justice system (existing case)
– Family instability
– Inadequate or unavailable child care, housing, transportation or employment opportunities
-Must request extension before 60 months are upYes
CT 21 monthsYes6-month periods, no more than 12 months total-Families with qualifying hardship

-Families with low income even after employment services
-Income must remain lower than state payment standardYes
DE 36 monthsYes12 months -Families with qualifying hardship– Despite best efforts, adult could not find stable employmentYes
DC Beyond the 60 month federal limit, unspecifiedN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
FL 48 monthsYesFor those caring for a disabled family member living in the home, the months they have done so– Individuals caring for a disabled family member in the  homeSSI/SSDI recipients
Minor child
*Yes
GA 48 monthsYesUntil hardship resolvesFamilies with qualifying hardship or victims of domestic violence*Yes
GU 60 months*****
HI 60 monthsYes6-month periods as determined by caseworkerFamilies with qualifying hardship-Comply with First to Work (FTW) program if deemed eligible: http://humanservices.hawaii.gov/bessd/ftw/ Yes
ID 24 monthsYes36 monthsFamilies with qualifying hardship-Continue to follow Personal Responsibility Contract (PRC)Yes
IL 60 monthsYesUntil hardship resolves– Disabled
– Medical condition that prevents full time work
– Receiving services that prevent full time work
– In approved education/training program
– Family care barrier
– Child approved for New Manual MaterialMedically Fragile Technology Dependent (MFTD) waive
-If extension is requested more than 10 days after the 60-month time limit expires, 30-day wait period appliesYes
IN 24 months*****
IA 60 monthsYes6-month periods as determined by caseworkerDomestic violence, lack of employability, lack of suitable child care, medical or mental health issues, housing situations that make it difficult to work, substance abuse issues, and having a child whose circumstances require a parent to be in the home. Also, families with one parent where that parent is on SSDI*Yes
KS 24 monthsYes12 months– Is a caretaker of a disabled family member living in the household
– Has a disability which precludes employment on a long-term basis or requires substantial rehabilitation
– Needs a time limit extension to overcome the effects of domestic violence/sexual assault
– Is involved with prevention and protection services (PPS) and has an open social service plan
– Or other extreme hardships
-Extension will be reviewed after 6 months Yes
KY 60 months*If the recipient is on TANF and has lost a job within 30days of reaching the 60 month time limit, they can get an extra 3 months; otherwise, extension time is not specifiedBattered or subjected to extreme cruelty
Physical or mental disability that prevents working
Providing for disabled family member
Close relative providing for child who would otherwise be placed in foster care
Insufficient employment opportunities despite participation in KWP
Domestic violence victim
**
LA 60 monthsYesUntil hardship resolvesFamilies with qualifying hardship-Must maintain compliance with Family Success Agreement (FSA) Yes
ME 60 monthsYesUntil hardship resolvesFamilies with qualifying hardship*Yes
MD 60 monthsNoN/AN/AN/AYes
MA 24 months in a 5-year period; 60 total monthsYes2-month periods as determined by caseworker; unlimited number of extensions– Lack of job opportunities
– Lack of child care
– Victim of domestic violence
– Participate in work activities
– Has not rejected work offers or quit a job without good causeHas not gotten fired for good reason
– Has cooperated with DTA and its rules
Yes
MI 60 monthsYes3-month periods as determined by caseworkerMust participate in services for domestic violence victims*Yes
MN 60 monthsYesEqual to the number of months recipient was eligible, up to 60 months– Employed
Ill, injured or incapacitated
– Developmental disability
– IQ below 80
– Determined to be unemployable
– Victim of domestic violence
Must provide documentationYes
MS 60 monthsYes*– The disability of the grantee relative, other eligible adult or a household member is a barrier to employment for the grantee relative or other eligible adults; and
– The household’s income does not exceed the Basic 100% Requirement for the TANF Program
*Yes
MO 45 monthsYes*The parent or legal guardian is a teen parent under age 18 attending school, is age 60 or over, is disabled or is needed in the home to care for a disabled family member.*Yes
MT 60 monthsYes*-Families with qualifying hardship

-Minor/teen parent as the head of household
-Comply with Employability and Service PlanYes
NE 60 monthsYes6-month periods as determined by caseworker-Families with qualifying hardship

-Caretakers who are not parents of the child
*Yes
NV 24 months  followed by a 12 month breakYes6-month periods as determined by caseworkerFamilies with qualifying hardship-Comply with New Employees Of Nevada (NEON): https://dwss.nv.gov/TANF/TANF_FAQ-Eligibility_Criteria-N/P/ Yes
NH 60 monthsYes6-month periods for as long as recipient remains eligibleFamilies with qualifying hardship-Comply with New Hampshire Employment Program (NHEP): https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dfa/tanf/employment.htm Yes
NJ 60 monthsYesAt discretion of caseworkerFamilies with qualifying hardship-Continue work activitiesYes
NM 60 monthsYesUntil hardship resolvesFamilies with qualifying hardship*Yes
NY 60 monthsYesUntil hardship resolvesFamilies with qualifying hardship-Extension will be reviewed every 6 monthsYes
NC 24 monthsYes6-month periods until recipient hits 60 total monthsFamilies with qualifying hardship-Must have been in compliance with the Work First Outcome Plan: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/social-services/work-first-family-assistance Yes
ND 60 monthsYes*Families with qualifying hardship*Yes
OH 36 monthsYes6-month periods until recipient hits 60 total monthsFamilies with qualifying hardship*Yes
OK 60 monthsYesUntil hardship resolves-Families with qualifying hardship

-Families who are underemployed 
*Yes
OR 60 monthsYesUntil hardship resolves-Minor parents

-Needy caretaker relatives
-Enroll in JOBS program:
https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/assistance/CASH/Pages/jobs-program.aspx

-Situation is temporary (less than 12 months)
Yes
PA 60 monthsYesUntil hardship resolvesFamilies with qualifying hardship-Enroll in Maximizing Participation Project (MPP): http://services.dpw.state.pa.us/oimpolicymanuals/cash/135_Employment_and_Training_Requirements/135_Appendix_H.htmYes
PR 60 months*****
RI 48 monthsYesInitial 6-month extension, then 3-month extensionsFamilies with qualifying hardship-Comply with an Employment Plan: http://www.dhs.ri.gov/Programs/RIWorksAmIRequiredtoWork.php Yes
SC 24 months in a 10-year periodYes12 monthsFamilies with qualifying hardship-Must have made effort to seek employment No
SD 60 monthsYes*Families with qualifying hardship*Yes
TN 60 monthsYesUntil hardship resolves, or 2-month extension for temporary life crisis-Families with qualifying hardship

-Recipients undergoing temporary crisis (eviction, natural disaster, pregnancy complications or the death of family member)
-Must be evaluated by Families First supervisorYes
TX 60 monthsYes24 months-Families with qualifying hardship

-Families who are underemployed
-Comply with Choices, the state’s work training program: https://www.twc.texas.gov/programs/choices-program-overview Yes
USVI 60 months*****
UT 60 monthsYes*If received TANF as a child, might qualify for it again as an adult-Employed for at least 20 hours per weekYes
VT 60 monthsYes*May be able to get a deferment as long as you continue to meet program requirements-Follow a Family Development Plan (FDP)Yes
VA 60 monthsYes12 monthsFamilies with qualifying hardship-Must have been actively seeking employmentYes
WA 60 monthsYesUntil hardship resolvesFamilies with qualifying hardship-Continue meeting eligibility requirementsYes
WV 60 monthsYes6 monthsFamilies with qualifying hardship-Must request an extension before 60-month period expires (victims of domestic violence can request after 60 months)Yes
WI 48 monthsYesUp to caseworkerFamilies with qualifying hardship-Must have been actively seeking employmentYes
WY 60 months*****

TANF Benefits

There is no nationwide TANF benefit amount. The amount of TANF benefits you receive each month depends on:

  • Location of residence: Each area has its own standards and policies when determining the amount of benefits an applicant will receive
  • Size of your family: The amount of children in the household 
  • Household income: Your household’s total annual income
father and daughter smiling tanf benefits

Maximum Monthly Benefits in U.S. States and Territories

Each state, territory and tribe has a different TANF maximum benefit amount. The chart below provides the maximum TANF cash benefit amount based on a family of three (one parent and two children) in U.S. states and territories as an example.

If your family size or composition is different, your maximum benefit amount will vary. Refer to the section called “TANF Programs and Contact Information for U.S. States and Territories” in this guide to get in touch with your local office and find out how much your family composition’s maximum benefit amount is.

Maximum monthly benefits are not available for Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For more information, contact your location’s TANF program office.

LocationMaximum Benefit Amount for a Family of 3
Alabama$215
Alaska$923
Arizona$278
Arkansas$204
California*$1,035 for region 1 if exempt; $925 in region 1 if not exempt; $982 in region 2 in exempt; $878 in region 2 if not exempt
Colorado$508
Connecticut*$709
Delaware$338
District of Columbia$658
Florida$303
Georgia $280
Hawaii $610
Idaho$309
Illinois$543
Indiana$288
Iowa$426
Kansas*$386 – $429
Kentucky$262
Louisiana$240 
Maine$620
Maryland$727
Massachusetts$633
Michigan$492
Minnesota$632
Mississippi$260
Missouri$292
Montana$588
Nebraska$485
Nevada$386
New Hampshire$1,098
New Jersey$559
New Mexico$447
New York$789
North Carolina$272
North Dakota$486
Ohio$512
Oklahoma$292
Oregon$506
Pennsylvania$403
Rhode Island$721
South Carolina$305
South Dakota$630
Tennessee$387
Texas$308
Utah$498
Vermont$699
Virginia$559
Washington$654
West Virginia$542
Wisconsin$653
Wyoming$726

How TANF Benefits Are Distributed

The way you receive TANF cash assistance depends on where you live. There are four ways that states, territories and tribes distribute TANF benefits:

  1. Paper Checks: Traditional paper checks are still available in many locations and can help families keep track of their finances. This option is beneficial for recipients who do not have a bank account. 
  2. Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card: An EBT card is a state-issued debit card that public assistance program recipients use to purchase items. The TANF program loads cash benefits onto the EBT card once per month, typically on the first of the month. Then recipients use these EBT cards just like a regular debit card when making a purchase. EBT cards can also be used at ATMs, where recipients can withdraw cash. When the card balance reaches zero, recipients must wait until the next month for the TANF program to reload it. Note: Some retailers and online stores do not accept EBT cards. Before making a purchase, check with the store to learn the types of accepted payment methods.
  3. Prepaid Card: Prepaid cards are similar to standard debit cards with a four-digit pin. They can be used online or in stores to purchase items, and are accepted by more major retailers than EBT cards. Retailers that accept EBT cards will often place a banner on display indicating that EBT cards are accepted in their stores. Note: Prepaid cards sometimes charge ATM withdrawal fees.
  4. Direct Deposit: With this option, TANF benefits are deposited directly into a recipient’s bank account once per month, typically on the first day of the month. Then, they use their personal debit cards, cash or checks to purchase the items they need.

What can I purchase with TANF cash benefits?

The purpose of TANF benefits is to help families purchase essential items in times of financial need. Each state, territory and tribe defines “essential items” slightly differently as evidenced by the purchase restrictions in the following table, but the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) lists the following item categories as essential:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Personal care items
  • Shelter
  • Utilities 
  • Household goods

What items are restricted for purchase with TANF cash benefits?

State, territory and tribal TANF programs restrict the purchase of certain items with cash benefits. TANF cash benefits cannot be used to purchase items at the following businesses:

  • Liquor stores
  • Tattoo or body-piercing businesses
  • Strip clubs
  • Casinos
  • Online gambling websites

This list is not all-inclusive. States, territories and tribes have the final say in restrictions and penalties for purchasing restricted items. Learn more about these specific topics in the section below.

TANF Restrictions and Penalties

Some states, territories and tribes provide information related to TANF restrictions and penalty enforcement. The chart below lists these locations and details on the specific restrictions and penalties in these areas.

If your state, territory or tribe is not listed in the chart, contact your local TANF office to learn more about restrictions and penalties. Refer to the section “TANF Programs and Contact Information for U.S. States and Territories” for a list of TANF contact information in each location. 

Note: An asterisk (*) denotes information that is not readily available on the location’s TANF website. Contact your local department for more information. 

LocationTANF Restrictions Penalty Enforcement 
Alabama-Alcohol -Gambling -Tattoos and body piercings -Adult entertainment -Psychic services 1st violation: Disqualified from TANF for 1 month 2nd violation: Disqualified from TANF for 3 months 3rd violation: Disqualified from TANF permanently. If permanently disqualified, children may still receive benefits through a payee representative. 
Arizona-Alcohol -Gambling -Adult entertainment These establishments are prohibited from accepting EBT cards in general or having ATMs that accept EBT cards. *
CaliforniaTANF benefits cannot be withdrawn from an ATM at adult entertainment establishments or gambling facilities. Fraud penalties are determined by the amount of benefits spent, but can involve prison time and/or fines. 
Colorado-Tobacco -Gambling -Firearms -Adult entertainment *
Florida-Alcohol -Gambling -Adult entertainment These establishments are prohibited from accepting EBT cards in general or having ATMs that accept EBT cards. N/A
Idaho-Alcohol -Gambling -Adult entertainmentMisuse of cash assistance could result in a misdemeanor or forfeiture of benefits. 
Indiana-Alcohol -Gambling -Firearms -Adult entertainmentTANF recipients that misuse benefits can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. 
Iowa-Alcohol -Gambling -Adult entertainment*
Kansas-Alcohol -Gambling -Tobacco -Adult entertainment -Sporting/music events -Spa and nail salons -Tattoos and body piercings -Psychic services -Movie theaters -Theme parks -Lingerie*
Maine-Alcohol -Gambling -Adult entertainmentTANF recipients who misuse funds can face up to a Class D crime.
Maryland-Gambling*
Massachusetts-Alcohol -Gambling -Tobacco -Adult entertainment -Firearms -Tattoos or body piercings  -Spas and nail salons -Jewelry -Cruise shipsTANF recipients who knowingly misuse benefits must reimburse funds. 2nd violation: Disqualified from receiving cash assistance for two months 3rd violation: Disqualified from cash assistance permanently
Michigan-Alcohol -Gambling -Adult entertainment*
Minnesota-Alcohol -TobaccoTANF recipients that misuse their benefits may be disqualified from further assistance.
Missouri-Alcohol -Tobacco -Gambling -Adult entertainmentTANF recipients who misuse funds must reimburse the state department. 
New Hampshire-Alcohol -Tobacco -Gambling -Adult entertainment1st violation: Suspension of cash assistance for 2 pay periods 2nd violation: Suspension of cash assistance for 4 pay periods 3rd violation and subsequent violations: Suspension of cash assistance for 6 pay periods
New York-Alcohol -Gambling -Adult entertainment*
Oklahoma-Alcohol -Tobacco -Gambling -Adult entertainment1st violation: Reduce TANF benefits by 25 percent for 3 months 2nd violation: Reduce TANF benefits by 35 percent for 6 months 3rd violation: Reduce TANF benefits by 50 percent for 12 months 4th violation: Permanently disqualified from TANF 
Pennsylvania-Alcohol -Tobacco -Gambling -Adult entertainment*
Tennessee-Alcohol -Tobacco -Gambling -Adult entertainmentRecipients who knowingly misuse TANF benefits will be required to reimburse the state department. Upon a subsequent violation, the TANF recipient will be permanently disqualified from receiving public assistance through a direct cash payment or EBT card. 
TexasTexas ONLY allows TANF funds to be used toward “essential goods,” which are those deemed necessary for the welfare of the children: https://yourtexasbenefits.hhsc.texas.gov/programs/tanf/families *
Utah-Alcohol -Gambling -Adult entertainment These establishments are prohibited from accepting EBT cards in general or having ATMs that accept EBT cards. Penalties are determined on a case-by-case basis, but can involve temporary or permanent disqualification from assistance. 
Virginia-Alcohol -Tobacco -Gambling -Adult entertainment -Tattoos or body piercingsTANF recipients who misuse benefits can be charged with larceny. 
Washington-Alcohol -Tobacco -Gambling -Adult entertainment -Tattoos or body piercingsTANF recipients that misuse funds could face fines, legal proceedings and disqualification from public cash  assistance. 

Tribal TANF

indigenous children smiling tribal tanf

Federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages are eligible to operate their own TANF programs separate from states and territories. Currently, there are nearly 300 tribes across the United States that operate a version of the TANF program. 

View a list of all federally recognized tribes and Alaska Native tribal entities on the U.S. government website: https://www.usa.gov/tribes#item-37647

Or, if you prefer searching by state, use the tribal search tool offered on the National Conference of State Legislators website: https://www.ncsl.org/research/state-tribal-institute/list-of-federal-and-state-recognized-tribes.aspx

Tribal TANF Contact Information

Each Tribal TANF program is operated by specific American Indian and Alaska Native tribal entities. However, there are 10 regional TANF offices that oversee Tribal TANF programs by state. The following chart contains contact information for each regional office as well as the specific states that it oversees. 

RegionStatesAddressPhone Number
Region 1 – Boston RegionConnecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont JFK Building, 15 Sudbury Street Rm. 2000 Boston, MA 02203(617) 565-2462
Region 2 – New York RegionNew Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands26 Federal Plaza, Room 4114 New York, NY 10278(212) 264-2890 ext. 128
Region 3 – Philadelphia RegionDistrict of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia801 Market Street, Suite 8300 Philadelphia, PA 19107-3134(215) 861-4058
Region 4 – Atlanta RegionAlabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee61 Forsyth Street, Suite 4M60 Atlanta, GA 30303-8909(404) 562-2938
Region 5 – Chicago RegionIllinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin233 N. Michigan Ave. Suite 400 Chicago, IL 60601(312) 886-9540
Region 6 – Dallas RegionArkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas1301 Young St., Room 945 Dallas, TX 75202(303) 844-1483
Region 7 – Kansas City RegionIowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska601 East 12th St., Rm. 349, Kansas City, MO 64106(816) 426-2236
Region 8 – Denver RegionColorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming999 18th Street, South Terrace, Suite 499 Denver, CO 80202(303) 844-1483
Region 9 – San Francisco RegionArizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Guam90 7th Street, Ninth Floor San Francisco, CA 94103(415) 437-7579
Region 10 – Seattle RegionAlaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington701 5th Avenue, Suite 1510, MS-71 Seattle, WA 98104(206) 615-2569

How Tribal TANF Works

Like states and territories, eligible American Indian and Alaska Native tribes receive grants from the U.S. government to design and implement their own public welfare programs. To create and enforce a TANF program, tribes submit a three-year Tribal Tanf plan to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

Tribal TANF programs are a bit different than TANF programs in the states and territories. Due to the increased difficulty in finding and maintaining employment on reservation lands, tribes are given more flexibility in designing their TANF programs. Other eligibility and work requirements may also differ between specific Tribal TANF programs. Continue reading the sections below to learn more about these requirements.

Tribal TANF Program Eligibility

To receive TANF benefits through a Tribal TANF program, you must be a member of a federally recognized American Indian tribe or an Alaska Native. View a list of all federally recognized tribes and Alaska Native tribal entities on the U.S. government website: https://www.usa.gov/tribes#item-37647

Like TANF programs in states and territories, you must also meet general TANF eligibility guidelines, which are:

  • Have a child 18 years or younger OR be pregnant
    *Children who are 19 years of age and full-time students are still eligible
  • 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

Refer to the section “TANF Program Eligibility Requirements” for more information about general requirements. 

Since tribes are responsible for creating their own TANF programs, they are allowed to define their program’s specific eligibility criteria, including income. Tribal TANF programs are not bound to the same income limits as states and territories. Tribes must outline their own definition of a “needy family” in their Tribal TANF plan.

Learn about how tribal law can supersede federal law with the following eligibility FAQs.

According to federal law, children must be living with a parent or an adult family member to receive assistance through the TANF program. However, the specific tribe’s tribal law can allow a legal guardian to stand in the place of a parent, allowing the family to receive Tribal TANF assistance. 

Can a noncustodial parent qualify for Tribal TANF assistance?

Yes. Parents who do not have physical custody of their child(ren) are known as “noncustodial parents.” These individuals can still receive assistance through a Tribal TANF program. Tribes have the ability to define their TANF program laws, and have two options for serving noncustodial parents. 

  1. Tribes can choose to include noncustodial parents in the definition of a family unit, which defines the types of individuals who make up a family. In this scenario, the noncustodial parent would submit their income and work requirements for purposes of calculating TANF program eligibility. 
  1. Or, tribes can provide other benefits outside of financial assistance to noncustodial parents. These benefits are: 
  • Counseling
  • Job readiness
  • Employment placement
  • Post-employment services

Can Tribal TANF programs provide assistance to child-only families where the child is living with a non-relative caregiver?

Yes. Tribes have the freedom to design their own TANF programs and go beyond their state’s definitions for “family unit.” In situations where a child is living full-time with an adult that is not a family member, he or she may qualify for assistance if tribal law defines this. Even if the state where the tribe is located does not include non-relative caregivers in their definition of a family unit, the tribe may choose to go beyond state law and include this in its own definition. 

Tribal TANF Services

Tribes have the same flexibility as states to determine the types of services they will provide through their TANF programs. These services are:

  • Cash assistance
  • Child care assistance
  • Job preparation
  • Work assistance

The services offered depend on the needs of the tribe or village as well as the total size. Smaller reservations may choose to offer limited services compared to large tribes. To learn about the services offered by the specific Tribal TANF program in your state, contact the regional office that oversees your location. Refer to the section “Tribal TANF Contact Information” for a list of regional office contact information.

Tribal TANF Work Requirements

Like states, Tribal TANF programs have work requirements that you must follow to continue receiving cash assistance. However, these requirements are more flexible and differ from states because of the difficulty of finding and maintaining solid employment on reservation lands. 

Tribes are given more freedom to define “work activities” than states are. They may choose to count additional activities toward work activity requirements beyond the 12 types of activities defined by the federal government. Refer to the section “Work Activity Requirements” for a list of all 12 types of federal work activities, and contact your local tribal organization for more information.

Tribal TANF Lifetime Limits and Extensions

While states and territories adhere to a federal lifetime benefit limit of 60 months (many of which have even shorter limits within their respective states), tribes have more flexibility in defining lifetime limits.

Each tribe-specific program defines its own lifetime limit and process for extending benefits. Hardship exceptions still apply to Tribal TANF recipients. Those experiencing a hardship can receive extended assistance depending on the Tribal TANF program’s definition of qualifying hardships. For tribal-specific information about lifetime limits or extensions, contact your Tribal TANF program directly or reach out to one of the regional offices found in the “Tribal TANF Contact Information” of this guide.

Tribal TANF Non-Assistance

The purpose of the TANF program is to promote employment and self-sufficiency, which is why Tribal TANF programs can choose to provide a variety of non-assistance to its members. Non-assistance is any activity that promotes the four main goals of the TANF program that may not meet the OFA’s definition of “assistance,” which is cash, payments, vouchers, and other forms of benefits designed to meet a family’s ongoing basic needs.

The following types of non-assistance services are available through Tribal TANF programs:

  1. Nonrecurring, short-term benefits
    • Must address a specific crisis or time of need; cannot expect to meet or solve ongoing issues
    • Cannot extend beyond four months
  2. Work subsidies – employers receive payments from Tribal TANF programs that cover the expenses related to hiring a new employee, promoting employment and new hires
  3. Child care
  4. Case management
  5. Transportation for employed individuals
  6. Counseling for:
    • Other public assistance programs, like Medicaid, CHIP, Native Employment Works and Food Stamps
  7. Refundable earned income tax credits
  8. Contributions to individual development accounts, which help individuals save money for education expenses or home purchases

TANF and Child Support 

mother and baby cuddling tanf and child support

TANF recipients are required to cooperate with child support laws while receiving public cash assistance. In most states and territories, TANF program participants cannot receive child support payments while receiving cash benefits.

Some states, however, do allow beneficiaries to continue receiving a portion of child support payments. These states allow TANF recipients to continue receiving child support payments if restricting the payments would cause further harm. 

TANF and Child Support Payments in U.S. States and Territories

States that allow TANF recipients to receive a portion of their monthly child support payments are known as “pass through” states. In other words, they allow some of this payment to “pass through” to the TANF program participant without affecting their eligibility for the TANF program.

States can choose whether to enact this pass-through policy. Those that have pass-through options determine the exact amount that TANF recipients can receive. The table below defines the states that have a pass-through policy for monthly child support payments as well as the specific pass-through amount. 

Note: An asterisk (*) indicates the state or territory is a fill-the-gap state, which means the specific amount that is passed through to the TANF recipient depends on unmet need. TANF programs calculate the pass-through amounts in these states by subtracting the family’s income from the state’s maximum eligibility standard.

LocationPass-Through
AlabamaNo
Alaska$50
ArizonaNo
ArkansasNo
California$50
Colorado100% of the payment
Connecticut$50
Delaware$50
District of Columbia$150
FloridaNo
Georgia*
GuamNo
HawaiiNo
IdahoNo
Illinois$100 for one child, $200 for two or more children
IndianaNo
IowaNo
KansasNo
KentuckyNo
LouisianaNo
Maine$50
Maryland$100 for one child, $200 for two or more children
Massachusetts$50
MichiganNo
Minnesota100% of the payment
MississippiNo
MissouriNo
Montana$100
NebraskaNo
Nevada No
New HampshireNo
New Jersey$100
New Mexico$100 for one child, $200 for two or more children
New York$100 for one child, $200 for two or more children
North CarolinaNo
North DakotaNo
OhioNo
OklahomaNo
Oregon$50 per child / $200 max.
Pennsylvania$100 for one child, $200 for two or more children
Puerto Rico$50
Rhode Island$50
South Carolina$75
South DakotaNo
Tennessee*
Texas$75
U.S. Virgin IslandsNo
UtahNo
Vermont$50
Virginia$100
Washington$50 for one child, $100 for two or more children
West Virginia$100 for one child, $200 for two or more children
Wisconsin75% of payment
WyomingNo

Emergency TANF Assistance

In times of crisis or emergency, states can implement non-recurrent short-term benefits through their TANF programs. These one-time benefits are not meant to solve long-term issues and do not extend beyond four months. 

Emergency TANF assistance is different from regular TANF cash benefits. Individuals who receive an emergency cash payment through TANF are not held to the same requirements as regular TANF recipients, which are:

  • Work activity requirements
  • Lifetime benefit limits
  • Child support prohibition

Types of TANF Emergency Assistance 

Each state, territory and tribe determines the types of emergency assistance it will offer through their TANF program. Emergency assistance is designed to resolve a variety of short-term crises and emergency scenarios. 

States use leftover TANF funds to provide these non-recurrent, short-term emergency funds in a variety of programs:

  • Utility and energy assistance
  • Emergency housing assistance
  • Vehicle support or payments
  • Burial services
  • Domestic violence assistance
  • Transportation assistance 
  • Family support services
  • Clothing stipends
  • Family or caregiver assistance 
  • Scholarship assistance 

For more information about the availability of emergency benefits, refer to the section “TANF Programs and Contact Information for U.S. States and Territories” of this guide to get in contact with your local agency. 

TANF Fraud

To continue receiving benefits from the TANF program, you must follow the program’s guidelines and avoid fraud.

What is considered TANF fraud?

The most common cases of TANF fraud are:

  • When applicants provide false information on their TANF applications to receive benefits or to increase their benefit amount
  • When individuals use TANF cash assistance to purchase restricted items or purchase items from restricted businesses (see the section “TANF Restrictions and Penalties” for a list of restrictions and penalties)
  • When a retailer that has been disqualified to participate in the TANF program lies on their application to become an approved EBT retailer again
  • When a retailer accepts TANF funds as payment for unauthorized items

What happens if I receive a higher benefit amount than what I am entitled to and I do not report it?

TANF recipients who do not report changes or overpayments can be penalized and even lose the assistance altogether. 

Does the government take action against those who commit TANF fraud?

Each state and territory has its own process for investigating suspected TANF fraud. State TANF agencies conduct undercover investigations on retailers and individuals suspected of fraud and work with federal law enforcement officials to reduce instances of fraud.

How can I report TANF fraud?

If you have credible information that someone is committing TANF fraud, report it right away. 

You can report TANF fraud to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) via phone by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477)

1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477)

You can also report TANF fraud to your state’s TANF agency. Depending on where you live, you may be able to report fraud online, by mail or by phone. Refer to the section “TANF Programs and Contact Information for U.S. States and Territories” to find your state’s TANF contact information.

Additional Resources

In addition to TANF, the federal government offers other resources to families and individuals who need financial assistance. To qualify for these programs, individuals and families have to meet low income requirements. Those who qualify for TANF automatically qualify for the following government assistance programs.

Food Benefits 

Housing Benefits

Healthcare Benefits

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