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Welfare: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Federal government benefit programs can help people with a low income cover basic expenses like food, housing, and healthcare.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), also known as welfare, is designed to help families recover from temporary difficulties and move forward.

Financial Assistance Welfare, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), provides cash for a limited time to low-income families working toward self-sufficiency. TANF may also offer non-cash benefits such as childcare and job training. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides cash to low-income seniors and low-income adults and kids with disabilities.

How do you qualify for TANF?

  • All programs have income limits, meaning that your income must be under a certain level.
  • Most programs require you to be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen.
  • Many programs have other state requirements like family size and your family’s financial resources.
  • Households that include an adult who is not exempt are allowed to receive TANF or TAONF cash benefits for a maximum of five years in their lifetime.
  • A family must include children 18 years old or younger.
  • Applicants must participate in the TANF work program.
  • Some tribal groups operate their own TANF programs.
    • Each state or tribal territory decides the specific eligibility criteria for financial assistance or other benefits and services.
  • Each state TANF program is operated differently and has a different name.
  • You must be a resident of the state where you are applying.

Learn more about who is eligible and how to apply for these programs at or your state’s social, human, or health services office.

What help is available?
If you qualify, you can get help with food, housing, home energy, childcare, job training, and more.

How to apply
To sign up for temporary benefits, you can apply at your local or county social services agency. Call your state TANF office for your local contact information. For more information, check here.

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