Applying for TANF

To receive benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, you must first meet eligibility requirements. TANF eligibility requirements primarily focus on factors such as your income, age, residency and your continued participation in work programs. However, each state TANF program may have additional eligibility requirements that must be met to qualify for benefits.

If you are interested in applying for TANF, you must contact the TANF program in the state where you live. When completing an application, it is crucial that you provide accurate and truthful information to the best of your ability. The application will require information about you and all other members of your household.

Depending on your TANF state program, you may be able to submit your application in one of several ways, including by mail, online or in person at your local office. As part of the TANF application process, you will be required to participate in an interview where benefits eligibility will be assessed. You can learn more about the TANF application process by reviewing the sections that have been provided below.

TANF Eligibility Requirements

Several factors affect your eligibility for TANF benefits. These factors include your income, age and residency. To qualify for TANF, you must either be a citizen of the United States or possess proof of lawful presence within the U.S.

While TANF is a federal program, applicants must be residents of the state where the application is submitted. State residency requirements exist because each state receives separate funding for the TANF program. Additionally, specific eligibility requirements can vary between state programs.

Income

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program exists to provide cash assistance to low-income families who qualify. For this reason, eligibility for TANF is primarily based upon income. Each state TANF program has specific income limits that households may not exceed to qualify for cash assistance.

Limits vary between states, as income guidelines are determined by the cost of living within the state, county or region. Some TANF programs also require a family to meet asset limits. If the state program has an asset limit, the agency will consider various assets that an applying family has, including:

  • Properties.
  • Vehicles.
  • Bank accounts.

Each state that imposes an asset limit will have a set amount of assets that a family may hold while remaining eligible for TANF benefits.

Age

The TANF program was created to provide financial support to qualifying low-income families. For a family to be eligible for cash assistance, there must be at least one dependent child who is 18 years of age or younger living within the home.

However, there are certain exemptions to this rule. For example, households with children who are 19 years of age but still attending high school full-time. Additional exceptions are provided to pregnant women and teen parents who meet other qualifications.

Work/School

As the program name suggests, TANF is designed to provide temporary financial assistance to needy families that qualify. Therefore, qualifying families are typically those that have undergone a recent hardship, such as a recent job loss.

TANF beneficiaries must participate in educational programs, including career training, to better prepare them to find and keep employment. While receiving TANF benefits, adult family members must meet hourly requirements in these programs to maintain program benefits. There are some exceptions to work requirements, such as in the case of a disabled individual.

Many, although not all, TANF programs include school attendance requirements for children. Children must consistently attend school to retain benefits or avoid a reduction in cash assistance amounts. This means that households may lose or receive less benefits for truant children.

Where to Get a TANF Application

You must apply for TANF in the state that you reside within. While each state program has its version of TANF, most states allow you to submit your application in one of four ways including:

  • Most state programs allow you to submit their applications through an online portal. You generally must create an account to complete the form. Having an online account provides additional benefits, including the ability to track the status of an application.
  • At a state office. You can apply for TANF by visiting your local TANF office and completing an application. In some states, you can only apply for benefits at their local office.
  • Over the phone or by fax. A handful of states allow you to submit an application over the phone or by fax. However, in cases such as these, supporting documentation must be provided to the local office by another means.
  • By mail. Some TANF offices accept applications by mail. By-mail applications can be a convenient choice, as it allows you to submit all necessary documentation with your application.

Should you need assistance in completing your TANF application, you may contact your local office over the phone or visit your local office during regular business hours.

How to Apply for TANF

Once you are ready to apply for TANF and you have selected the application method that is most convenient for you, it is essential that you complete your form as accurately as possible. If your completed application includes incorrect or incomplete information, your application could be delayed or denied.

When applying for TANF, you must submit documentation to support the information that you provide on your application. Depending on the information that you provide, you may need to provide documents like:

  • Proof of identity, such as with a valid state-issued driver’s license or identification card.
  • Proof of residency, such as with an official piece of mail that includes your name and your address where you live.
  • Proof of legal presence, such as with your immigration documents, a U.S. birth certificate or a U.S. passport.
  • Proof of income and asset records, such as with your most recent pay stubs and bank statements.

A caseworker will be assigned to you after your application is accepted. Your caseworker will inform you of any additional documentation that is needed to process your application. An interview will be scheduled with you to determine your TANF eligibility and potential benefit amount.

Generally, the application process for TANF can take up to 60 days. Once a determination has been made on your case, you will receive a notice by mail announcing your approval or denial for TANF cash assistance. If you do receive a denial letter, the letter will include the reason that benefits were denied as well as provide you with information on the appeal process.