TANF Frequently Asked Questions

Get TANF help. Below we list some frequently asked questions about the TANF program. If you still cannot find the answer to your question, then we recommend you contact your local welfare office for assistance. To find one in your state, search for a TANF office near you.

Is TANF and welfare the same thing?TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This is what most people are referring to when they talk about welfare. TANF benefits are loaded onto the same type of EBT card as SNAP, (if you qualify for both they are on the same card.) You can use the TANF cash to purchase many different things including rent, clothes, food etc.

What does TANF provide?The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides temporary financial assistance for pregnant women and families with one or more dependent children. TANF provides financial assistance to help pay for food, shelter, utilities, and expenses other than medical.

How do I apply for TANF?Each state administrates their own TANF program including the steps to apply for benefits. This means the process can be different from state to state. To find out the process in your state, view the how to apply for TANF page.

Can states require drug testing of TANF recipients?Yes. The 1996 welfare reform law gave states the option of requiring drug tests for assistance recipients and penalizing those who fail such tests. If you have additional questions or issues about drug testing, please contact your state TANF office.

Are there restrictions the use of TANF benefits?TANF funds a wide range of benefits and services, many of which are for specific purposes. However, TANF is best known for helping states finance their cash public assistance programs for needy families with children.

The cash benefits are often paid on an Electronic Benefit Transaction (EBT) card that a recipient can take to an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) to draw cash or use to purchase goods and services at a point-of-sale device.

As cash, there are no restrictions on the types of goods and services that can be purchased with TANF benefit. However, law does restrict where a recipient might access benefits at an ATM.

For example, the law prevents EBT access to TANF cash at liquor stores, casinos, and strip clubs. States are required to prohibit access to TANF cash at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) at such establishments.

How much cash can a TANF recipient receive per month?There are no federal rules that help determine the amount of TANF cash benefits paid to a family. Benefit amounts are determined solely by the states. Most states base TANF cash benefit amounts on family size, paying larger cash benefits to larger families on the presumption that they have greater financial needs.

The maximum monthly cash benefit is usually paid to a family that receives no other income and complies with program rules. Families with income other than TANF often are paid a reduced benefit. Moreover, some families are financially sanctioned for failure to meet a program requirement, and are also paid a lower benefit.

How long can you receive TANF benefits?In most cases, you can only receive TANF benefits for a maximum of 5 years (or 60 months). This can vary from state to state.

I have been denied TANF benefits. What can I do?If you applied for TANF in your state and you do not agree with a decision regarding welfare benefits, you have the right to file an appeal. For more information about your state's appeals procedures, you may want to contact your state TANF office.

If my caseworker does not act in a timely manner, what can I do?Each state should have established procedures that workers must follow in managing applications, including standards for how quickly applications are processed. When individuals apply for benefits, they should receive information about benefits, conditions of eligibility, related available services, and client rights and responsibilities. If you have a concern or complaint about these matters, you may wish to contact your state TANF office or local welfare officials.

My caseworker was rude. How can I file complaint?Caseworkers should treat clients with respect and courtesy. However, this may not happen in all circumstances. If the problems with your caseworker are serious, you may want to ask whether the office has complaint forms or procedures. You also might ask to talk with his or her supervisor or to see if you can get a new worker assigned to your case.

I cannot find a job, but want to get off of welfare. What can I do?Under the TANF program, the major mission of welfare agencies is to help individuals find jobs and successfully transition from welfare to work. You can obtain information about employment and training assistance by contacting America's Workforce Network. Its toll-free help line is 877-872-5627.

The toll-free help line provides workers and employers with the information they need to access public workforce services. You may wish to contact your local Department of Labor services. You can also use America's Job Bank as another source for finding a job.

Besides TANF, are there other programs for needy low-income individuals?Yes, there are other federal programs that may be able to assist a low-income individual and families in need. They are listed below:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formely food stamps)
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Head Start
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
How do I report welfare fraud?If you believe you have specific, credible information that someone is committing fraud, we suggest you contact your states TANF office or nearest welfare agency. States must establish and enforce standards and procedures to ensure against program fraud and abuse.

States may prosecute individuals or deny them further assistance if they commit fraud or willfully misrepresent their circumstances. If you are aware of specific instances of potential fraud, you may also call the HHS Inspector General's Hotline toll-free at 800-447-8477.