Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

What is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF) ?

TANF is a block grant program to help take recipients to work and turn welfare into a program of temporary assistance. Under the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, TANF replaced older welfare programs known as the Job Opportunity and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) program, Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and the Emergency Assistance (EA) program. The law ended the federal authority for aid and created Temporary Assistance for Needy Families as a block grant that provided federal funds to states and tribes each year. The fund targets needy families covering benefits, administrative expenses and services.

President Clinton signed the Act, into law, which reauthorized the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program of 1996. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 requires states to engage more TANF cases in productive work activities.

Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides cash assistance to needy families with dependent children when available resources do not fully meet the needs of the family. Dependent children and adults must meet financial and technical qualifications to apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or receive TANF assistance. Eligibility conditions include participation in work activities, cooperation with child support, and compliance with substance abuse provisions. Earned and unearned income cannot exceed the benefit level paid for the size of the Assistance Unit and the asset is limited to $2,000.00. There is a possibility of bringing sanctions for non-compliance with the programme.

What's new in TANF ?

The new Temporary Assistance for Families in Need Program guarantees that support services are available to you and your entire family. Cash benefits for children continue regardless of how long a family has been enrolled in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. More rewards are available for parents who achieve training and employment goals.

The district is enhancing the TANF program :

1) Expiration : 
Removal of 60 months time limit for families receiving TANF.

2) Increase in employment and training services :
Focus on education and employment programs.

3) Improving Customer Service :
One-on-one attention to help you meet your goals.

4) Increasing Cash Profit :
More cash at home for kids.

5) Providing Bonus :
Offering more rewards as you access your education and employment targets.

TANF Funding and Spending

Federal TANF block grants and state MOE contributions are the primary sources of funding for state TANF programs. Federal funding for TANF block grants has been earmarked for $16.5 billion each year since 1996. The amount to be spent by the states has been fixed at 80 per cent of their 1994 contribution to AFDC related programs. In 2020, states spent about $15 billion in MOE funds. Because the purposes of TANF are so broad, states have been able to move funds that were previously used to provide basic cash support for many other uses. Some of these funds have been used to fund programs and services such as childcare, which encourage and support employment among low-income households, while a significant portion of the funds have been used from neither families. made to meet. To support ongoing basic needs nor work. Also, states have often switched TANF funding from providing basic assistance to the lowest-income families to providing services to families with incomes above the poverty line. In 2020, 15 states spent 10 percent or less of their TANF funds on basic aid.


Amount Spent (billions of dollars)

Share of Total Spending

Basic Assistance



Work, Education, and Training Activities



Work Supports and Supportive Services



Child Care



Refundable Tax Credits



Pre-Kindergarten/Head Start



Child Welfare



Program Management









What is the Major Goal of TANF ?

The main purposes of TANF are :
  • The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program provides financial assistance to families with one or more dependent children and to pregnant women. 
  • TANF provides financial assistance for expenses other than medical, shelter utilities and food.
  • TANF provides helping needy families so that children can be taken care of.
  • TANF helps to reducing the dependency of needy parents by promoting work and marriage.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program encourage the formation of two-parent families.

What services are provided in TANF ?

  • Time-limited cash assistance for basic needs like clothing, food, housing etc.
  • Transitional services for families to become independent, such as vocational training, GED preparation, post-secondary education, classes in basic English, vocational rehabilitation, child care support, job retention services, work stipends, etc.
  • Referral to services available to investigate and address issues related to domestic violence, mental health and substance abuse.
  • A person receiving TANF also receives SNAP benefits and medical assistance :
HFS Medical Assistance Program :
DHS provides medical assistance on behalf of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS), which administers the program. A family that receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) receives a MediPlan card that covers most medical needs.

SNAP (Formerly Food Stamp) :
If a family receiving TANF qualifies, DHS also provides them with SNAP benefits.

You can participate in these services :
  • Earn Hire
  • Snap Employment & Training Job Placement
  • TANF Job Placement
  • Accommodation
  • Child Care
  • Parenting and Pregnancy
  • Abuse Prevention and Violence

Who can avail the services of TANF ?

To benefit from this program, you must be :
  • A US citizen, legal alien, or permanent resident
  • Pregnant or attributable to a child under the age of 19
  • Have little or no income
  • Underemployed, working for very low wages or going to be unemployed.
  • Pregnant women or a child under the age of 19 who lives with them.
  • The child must be a full-time high school student and must be 18 years old.
  • A pregnant woman (husband if he lives with her) may be eligible for help, even if they have no other children.
  • US citizens or meet certain immigration requirements.
  • Make a plan to become self-reliant.

Key Highlights of TANF

Work Requirements :
  • Single parents are required to participate in work activities for at least 30 hours per week. Two-parent families must participate in work activities for 35 or 55 hours per week, depending on circumstances.
  • Failure to attend to work requirements can result in a reduction or termination of family benefits.
  • States cannot penalize single parents under the age of 6 who are not receiving adequate child care for failing to meet work requirements.
  • States have to ensure that 50% of all families and 90% of two-parent families are participating in work activities.
  • If a state reduces its caseload, without restricting eligibility, it can receive a caseload reduction credit. This credit reduces the minimum participation rates the state must achieve.

Work Activities :
Activities that are included in a state's participation rates:
  • Unsubsidized or subsidized employment
  • On-the-job training
  • Work experience
  • Community service
  • Job search – not to exceed 6 total weeks and no more than 4 consecutive weeks
  • Vocational training – not to exceed 12 months
  • Job skills training related to work
  • Satisfactory secondary school attendance
  • Providing child care services to individuals who are participating in community service

Time Limit :
  • Families with adults who have received federally funded assistance for a total of five years are not eligible for cash assistance under the TANF program.
  • States may extend assistance beyond 60 months to no more than 20% of their caseload. They can also elect to provide assistance to families over 60 months old using only state funds or social service block grants.

Personal Employability Plans :
  • States should conduct a preliminary assessment of the skill of the recipient.
  • States can develop individual responsibility plans for each recipient to identify training, education and job placement services to go into the workforce.

How to Apply for TANF ?

A person can apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) at the local office that serves the area where they live. A person can also apply online for this program. An individual who applies for benefits receives their SNAP benefits and cash through Illinois Link Benefits. Use the DHS Office Locator to find the nearest Family Community Resource Center. 

For More Information

  • Use the DHS Office Locator to find your local Family Community Resource Center
  • Contact 1 800 447-6404 (TTY) or DHS Helpline at 1 800 843-6154 (voice).
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families - DHS 586
  • TANF (Spanish) - DHS 586s
  • TANF customers may qualify for assistance with home weathering or utility bills through the LIHEAP and Weatherization program.