Our peers are quick to share all of the wonderful parts of parenthood. These days people tend to share everything online. However, if that’s true, then why is it uncommon to share about our struggles online? The truth is that being a parent can be beautiful and the purest form of love most people ever know. That doesn’t mean that it comes without struggle and hardship.
Raising children is hard enough as is. It can be exhausting, especially if you’re the main caretaker of your family. When you add on financial stress, it can feel like you’re in it all alone. However, you’re not alone. There are millions of families facing hard times, which means that there are options for support out there for you! Imagine what life could be like if you weren’t constantly thinking about your next bill in the mail or tightly budgeting every dollar. It’s possible with the help of government assistance.
The government created a website called Benefits.gov to help people in tough situations find the right program to help them. The website acts as a one-stop resource for information on most, if not all, government assistance programs. Additionally, this website has a resource called the Benefit Finder. This database shows you what programs are best for you once you’ve answered a few questions. One specific program you may be able to benefit from is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). In addition to TANF, there are literally hundreds of assistance options that you might be able to benefit from!
What You Need to Know About TANF
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) helps low-income families with children become independent and no longer in need of any assistance. They accomplish this goal by offering recipients a number of helpful services. More on that later! States get federal grants in order to offer this program. Information from the government website states that TANF ”provides approximately $16.5 billion to states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories (Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico). Federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Native organizations may offer TANF through the tribal TANF program.”
State governments are in charge of administering TANF to families. For this reason, you can expect that the eligibility criteria differs depending on which state you live in. States also get to decide what their grant funds are used for. For example, they can determine what benefits are provided to recipients.
How TANF Assistance is Delivered
As we mentioned above, the entire basis of TANF is to help families with children get out from under their hardships and become self-sufficient. TANF believes they can better accomplish this by targeting these four main goals:
- Provide assistance to families so that children can be cared for in their own home or the home of relatives
- Lessen and prevent pregnancies that occur between two unmarried parents
- Motivate and support families with two active parents
- End parent’s dependence on government benefits by encouraging jobs, work, and marriage
The above goals are accomplished by offering families assistance in a number of ways. First, state governments can use their grant funds to provide cash assistance directly to families. In addition to that, recipients of TANF can benefit from various helpful and relevant services provided for them. The services are provided with the main goal in mind; helping the family reach independence. Some examples can include help with job hunting and transportation.
What to Expect When Applying for TANF Benefits
If you’re interested in benefiting from this support opportunity, you may want to know a little more about the application process. Below we will cover a few details about what it takes to be eligible for TANF. However, the only true way to know if you can get assistance is by applying. The good news is that there is no risk to submitting an application! The application is completely free. However, before you jump to get started, we recommend that you do additional research. You can learn more online or ask your local state’s TANF office about any questions you may have. Lastly, to begin applying, you need to go through your state’s TANF or Social Services office.
What Qualifications are Required to Get Support from TANF?
When it comes to qualifying for TANF, there are generally two major requirements. These include families that are:
- Have one or more children under the age of 18 years old
The federal government wants to ensure that its grants are supporting the success of families. While it’s difficult to say exactly what eligibility looks like in each state, you likely don’t qualify if you don’t meet both requirements mentioned above. Additionally, because of limited funding, it is important for states to make sure that the correct people receive benefits. As a result, there are criteria that can disqualify families that apply for TANF. However, all of this can look different depending on what state you’re in.
Work Requirements Associated With TANF
The federal government created TANF with particular goals in mind. The purpose of the program is to support families with children to become independent. Part of being independent is working. We covered earlier that state governments provide this support with grant funds from the federal government. The states get to decide which families to help and how. However, the states can’t just accept anyone to receive benefits. State governments are held accountable to meet goals for Work Participation Rates (WPR).
How WPR is Measured by TANF
WPR is measured by the number of work-eligible TANF participants at two different rates. One is an all-families rate. The other is a two-parent family rate. Families need to meet a certain amount of working hours per week in order to remain eligible with the program. However, what is counted as “working hours” in the program is a little complicated. A 1996 law recognizes that there are 12 work categories. Furthermore, how many hours can be assigned to each category is limited. For example, there is a maximum number of hours spent searching for a job that can be categorized as “activity hours.”
Now moving on to the amount of work hours that are required for families. We mentioned above the two rates at which WPR is calculated. First, let’s look at the all-families rate. The state is required to have a minimum of 50% of all TANF recipients work at least 30 hours per week.
For households with two parents that are benefiting from TANF, the expectation is that both parents work at least 35 hours per week. The goal rate for these families is 90%. The state must meet this goal to keep TANF funding or it can face penalties.
The work requirements for single parents with small children is lowest. A single parent with a child younger than six years is expected to work a minimum of 20 hours each week. Lastly, job training and further education don’t usually qualify as full-time activities.
The Bottom Line
Raising children is hard enough without the added financial stress in today’s economy. Basic necessities such as food, child care, and rent can become too much to handle. If your family is in a tough situation you may be wondering how you can get some relief. It’s more important than ever that you understand their assistance options. The federal government offers a variety of programs to help families like yours get the help they need. Go to Benefits.gov to find out more information about what programs are out there.
Here we covered the basics of TANF, how it works, and the general requirements for the program. If the program seems like a fit for your family, you can begin applying with your local TANF office. And remember, you have nothing to lose but you do have your freedom to gain!