Temporary Cash Assistance for The Poor

Last updated: June 17, 2014 by Dawn

Single-mother families are worse off than any other types of households with slightly over 40% are officially below the poverty level.

It comes as no surprise that many are homeless and unable to afford even the basic necessities like food & day care.

The federal government funds a range of welfare programs for the poor, from cash assistance, food stamps to Medicaid.

And TANF often becomes a source of safety net for these families while they get back on their feet — with single mothers making up the bulk of welfare recipients.

Study has shown households with a single parent raising children were more than twice as likely as households with married couples with children to experience hardship.1

What’s TANF?

TANF or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families2, as the name implies, extends temporary financial assistance to families that are living on income far enough below the poverty threshold.

The grand idea is to offer short-term assistance, with the aim of helping them get off of welfare – primarily through employment.

TANF provides monthly cash stipends via Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) which is used like a bank debit card to pay for rent, day care, and even for the purchase of food.

The catch is, you’re expected to participate in work activities for an average of 30 hours per week & gain employment no later than two years upon receiving assistance. Those with children under 6 are only required to complete a total of 20 hours of work activities per week.

To count toward the work requirement, you must participate in one or more of the following:

  1. unsubsidized or subsidized employment,
  2. on-the-job training,
  3. community service,
  4. up to 12 months of vocational education, or
  5. provide child care services to individuals who are participating in community service.

Failure to comply with the work rules will have your benefits reduced or revoked.



TANF Eligibility

Eligibility for TANF depends upon one’s income & the total no. of dependents in the household. And since it is a state-administered program, each state is given wide discretion over eligibility, benefit levels & time limit.

Those who are eligible for TANF benefits include:

  • Families with a child under the age of 18 who are living with them. The child should also be living with one or both parents, or a legal guardian.
  • A relatives who act as caretakers can also be included on the condition that they meet the requirements to establish their relationship to the child.
  • Women who are in their last trimester of pregnancy may qualify. The unborn child’s father also becomes eligible as long as he lives in the home.

Under TANF, the maximum time a recipient could receive this assistance is five years (60 months), although many states adopt shorter time limits.

Since it does not last long, you should not rely solely on “welfare income”, rather, you should ensure that you strive to become self-sufficient so that you can provide for your family all on your own.


  1. Hardship is defined as having difficulty meeting essential expenses, not paying rent or mortgage, getting evicted, not paying utilities, having utilities cut off, or not always having enough food. []
  2. Formerly known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) []