TANF: Cash Assistance for Single Moms (What You Need To Know)

If you’re single and raising children, you’re more likely than not dealing with financial hardships on a regular basis. Reducing expenses and increasing revenue streams can be difficult when you’re juggling your personal life and responsibilities as a parent. 

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is a cash assistance program funded and administered by state governments. The TANF program currently serves as the primary safety net for families experiencing financial hardship as a result of job loss, illness, or other unforeseen circumstances. 

This article will explore basic information about the TANF program, when it might be available to you, what criteria must be met to qualify for benefits, and how you can increase your chances of getting assistance if this is something that you need right now.

Table of Contents

What Is TANF?

The TANF program is a block grant that provides states with funding to design and operate programs of temporary financial assistance, work activities, and services that help needy families achieve self-sufficiency. States are required to meet certain federal requirements in order to be eligible for funds.

In 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) into law. This law changed welfare from an entitlement to a block grant program administered by the states with federal support. States were given more control over how they distribute funds and administer programs.

The TANF program was created as part of this act and is federally funded, but administered by each state according to their own rules.

Who Is Eligible For TANF

The TANF program is designed to help needy families who have children under the age of 18 by providing cash assistance and work-related services. In order to be eligible for TANF, a person must meet certain requirements and follow some rules. If they do not follow the rules, you may be penalized or lose their benefits altogether.

In order to be eligible for TANF: Cash Assistance for Single Moms, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • You must be a single mom with children who live with you.
  • Be pregnant, or
  • Be 18 years old or younger and the head of your household.
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident of the United States, and live in one of the states.
  •  You must be unemployed or underemployed and have low or very low income.
  • You must not have resources worth over $2,000 (excluding your home and car).
The specific income thresholds to qualify for TANF vary by state, so be sure to check your state's guidelines in order to determine if you qualify.

To get benefits from the TANF program’s financial aid, participants must engage in employment activities (which must take up at least 30 hours per week). There are a few exceptions, though, that pertain to single mothers who have children who are 6 years old or younger. 

By law, you cannot be punished for failing to complete the program’s employment requirements if you are unable to obtain acceptable childcare facilities for your minor children. To fulfill program criteria, you may be eligible for a 20-hour work week.

Benefits from TANF can only be received for a maximum of 60 months (or 5 years). This time limit makes sure that single mothers have enough time to obtain suitable employment and begin developing their careers so that, before leaving the program, they can become self-sufficient.

How to Apply for TANF: Cash Assistance for Single Moms

The TANF program is funded by the United States Office of Family Assistance, a division of the Office of the Administration for Children and Families, and is made accessible to local communities through their Department of Human Services. 

You can get in touch with your regional office if you want to submit an application for TANF benefits. By going to the ACF website and choosing your State, you may find the program contacts there.

If you’re having trouble finding or contacting your local DHS office, you can also contact the Family Assistance Help Center by phoning the office at 202-401-9275.

TANF Alternatives

If you’re unable to qualify for TANF, there are several other programs that you may be able to receive assistance under. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit are just a couple of benefits single mothers in need may be able to qualify for. 

However, it’s important to remember that all these programs have income limits, so financial assistance will ultimately depend on several factors like income level and family size.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

SNAP is also commonly known as the Food Stamp Program. 

The USDA considers it an entitlement program, meaning that anyone who meets eligibility requirements may receive this assistance despite budget considerations.

 In 2021, more than 48 million people in the United States participated in SNAP, with a monthly average benefit of about $169 per person.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable federal tax credit intended to offset part of the taxes lower-income workers pay on their income. The EITC was established to provide financial assistance to working families with children. The EIC is available for qualifying individuals regardless of whether or not they have enough income to owe federal taxes.

Final Thoughts

The TANF program is a federally funded, state-run service that serves as the primary safety net for low-income families. If you’re a single mother in need of assistance, it may be worth your while to look into it, especially if you meet the eligibility requirements. 

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