Apply For Iowa TANF Benefits

Learn how to apply for Iowa TANF. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, called Iowa Family Investment Program (FIP), may help you become self-supportive while receiving monthly cash benefits to meet your everyday needs such as rent, utilities, clothes, transportation, or additional expenses.

Sometimes you may not be eligible to receive TANF for yourself, but a child or children in your household may. The TANF program is administered by the Department of Human Services. In most cases, in order to qualify for TANF you must meet both types of eligibility, categorical and financial.

Additionally, to qualify for TANF there are work requirements. The IA TANF program requires most adults be employed or participate in certain work-related activities, which you will be assigned for a certain number of hours on a weekly basis in order to continue receiving TANF benefits.

The total number of hours needed to fulfill your work activity requirement depends on your family composition. Qualified state residents are required to produce information including household income, age, citizenship and resources.

Only household members who are eligible for Iowa TANF can receive welfare benefits. For more information about applying for IA TANF benefits, view the information below. If you still have questions or issues, then contact TANF Iowa.

Iowa TANF Eligibility

To be eligible for TANF benefits you must:

  • Be a US citizen or legal qualified alien
  • Live in Iowa
  • Provide a social security number or proof of application for a number
  • Meet income and resource limits
  • Provide all information needed to determine eligibility and benefit level

The exception would be that the Iowa Family Investment Program requires that you have a minor child (under age 18 or 19 and still in high school) in the home.

Apply for Iowa TANF

You can apply online or in person. To apply for Iowa TANF online, go to Or if you prefer, click here to download the application form and turn it in to a DHS office. To view a list of locations, find a DHS office near you.

TANF time limit

Federal law limits how long you can get FIP to a total of 60 months (five years). Months you get FIP or cash assistance in another state count toward the limit. Months are not counted for:

  • Persons on SSI
  • Caretakers who don't get FIP for themselves
  • Caretakers are relatives who care for a child, but are not the child's parent
  • Children

If a parent gets FIP for 60 months, FIP stops for the whole family. If a caretaker gets FIP for 60 months, the caretaker is taken off the FIP grant but FIP can continue for the child. The five years don't have to be in one block of time.

For example, if you get FIP for 30 months, then go off FIP and come back on later, you can still get FIP for 30 more months. The only way you can get FIP for more than 60 months is if you can prove that you have a reason why you cannot support your family. This is called a hardship exemption. Examples of hardship are:

  • Physical or mental health problems
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Domestic violence

A hardship exemption can last up to six months. To get an exemption you must:

  • Fill out a form called Request for FIP Beyond 60 Months and turn it in at the local DHS or PROMISE JOBS office
  • Provide them with proof of why you cannot support your family
  • Sign a six-month Family Investment Agreement (FIA) that lists the steps you must take to overcome the hardship

You may be able to get more than one hardship exemption if you work on overcoming your hardship and follow all of the FIP rules.

Iowa TANF benefits card

If you are approved for the Iowa TANF program, then you will receive an FIP electronic access card through the mail. This acts like a debit card, allowing you to make purchases. The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) will put your monthly FIP benefits on this card. When you get the card, keep it. It is not junk mail.

Keep this card even if your benefits stop, just in case you need to re-apply for future benefits. The letter D after your name is to remind you that this is your DHS card. This card is only for Iowa FIP benefits.

Any other state services you receive like Food Assistance, child support or unemployment benefits will not be on this card. You cannot access your cash benefits with your electronic access card (EAC) or your personal debit card at a:

  • Liquor store or any place that mainly sells liquor
  • Casino or other gambling or gaming establishment, or
  • Business which provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state (such as a strip club)

This includes these types of businesses located in Iowa, on tribal land, or in any other state. If the Department determines that you have accessed your cash benefits with your EAC or your personal debit card at one of the above places you:

  • Will have committed fraud
  • Have to repay the amount of cash accessed at the location, as well as any access fees, and
  • Your family will not get cash benefits for three months with the first misuse and six months for each additional misuse

Make sure to read the papers that come with the card. The papers will tell you how to:

  • Activate your card
  • Ways to avoid fees
  • Contact the toll-free customer service number 866-899-5611, and
  • Check your account balance and find participating free ATM locations via the website,

For questions about the card, call customer service at 866-899-5611. You will never be charged for calls to:

  • Report a lost, stolen or damaged card
  • Request a replacement card
  • Report problems using your card, or
  • Ask for help to fix a problem with your account

You will get 6 free customer service calls per month for all other services, after that each call costs $0.40.

I was denied TANF benefits. What can I do?

State and local agencies are responsible for establishing the eligibility criteria and procedures that apply in their programs, not the Federal government. If you disagree with a decision regarding welfare benefits, you have the right to file an appeal. For more information about your state's appeals procedures, contact the IA TANF office.