What is TANF?
TAF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), enacted in 1996, replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), which provided cash assistance to low-income families with children. TANF cash assistance can be extremely helpful in times of need for families. TANF, on the other hand, reaches far fewer families and provides far less cash assistance to families than AFDC, trapping more families in abject poverty. States have diverted funds that were previously directed to families to fund other programs.
The TANF program, which is time limited, assists families with children when the parents or other responsible relatives are unable to meet the family’s basic needs. The federal government provides grants to states to run the TANF program.
These state TANF programs are intended to accomplish four objectives:
- to help needy families care for their children in their own homes or in the homes of relatives;
- to reduce needy parents’ reliance on government assistance by encouraging job preparation, employment, and marriage and;
- reduce the number of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, as well as to set annual numerical targets for preventing and reducing the number of these pregnancies; and
- to encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.
States have a lot of leeway in implementing their programs. The design of the program, the type and amount of assistance payments, the range of other services to be provided, and the rules for determining who is eligible for benefits are all decided by the states, not the federal government.