Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

There are a number of programs designed to help families afford the necessities in life. In addition to WIC and SNAP, Americans receive an additional safety net in the form of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Giving grant funds to states in order to provide families with support and financial assistance, this program features everything from work assistance and job preparation services to childcare support. In order to enjoy the various benefits of this program, simply read the sections below on how to properly.

  • Determine eligibility for TANF.
  • Apply for TANF coverage.
  • Fill out a TANF application.
  • Go through the TANF interview.

Eligibility for TANF Enrollment

To qualify for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, one must meet all of the following criteria:

  • You are pregnant or responsible for a child under the age of 19.
  • You are a US citizen, national, legal alien or permanent US resident.
  • You have a low income.
  • You are working for a very low wage, are unemployed or are about to be lose your job.

Each state decides specific eligibility requirements and the benefits that are provided by their TANF program.

How to Apply for TANF

The process to apply for the various benefits of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program varies from one location to another, as the program is administered by each state individually. However, most states allow low-income Americans to apply for TANF in two ways: in person and online.

To apply in person, visit your state’s local department of health services office and submit a completed TANF application. Your state DHS website should provide an office locator to help you find a nearby location. Otherwise, log on to the state financial assistance page and follow the prompts to submit a digital application for TANF benefits.

Filling out the TANF Application

The form that you must fill out to receive the benefits of the TANF program is very lengthy, asking applicants to provide a wide variety of information. When filling out the form, do not write in the boxes that are shaded gray. In the white boxes, you must provide:

  • Personal information
  • Information on those who live with you
  • Citizenship status
  • Medical support information
  • Income and employment information
  • Resource details
  • Education information
  • Medical history details

Additionally, all applicants are required to read a variety of notices featured at the end of the TANF application.

How to Prepare for the TANF Interview

In order to be determined eligible to receive the benefits of temporary assistance, one must attend an interview, which should take place within seven working days of when you submitted your TANF application. To prepare for this interview gather all of the following materials, as any or all of the documents listed may be requested by the government representative:

  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of age for each household member
  • Proof of address
  • Information on household size
  • Expenses related to shelter
  • Social Security Number
  • Information on absent parents
  • Proof of earned income
  • Proof of citizenship or alien status
  • Information on whether you are drug/alcohol dependent
  • Child support
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Veteran’s benefits
  • Social Security benefits
  • Interest/dividends
  • Grants/loans for education
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Bank/checking account information
  • Life insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Burial trust/fund and plot/agreement information
  • Other real estate
  • Vehicle documents
  • Stocks and bonds
  • School attendance records
  • Unpaid rent/utility bills
  • Medical bills
  • Proof of disability, incapacitation or pregnancy
  • Other expenses

You should be told within 45 days of applying for TANF whether or not your application is approved.


1. How many people receive TANF benefits?

According to a study conducted by the Congressional Research Service, 4,097,377 people received TANF assistance in March 2013. This included about 1.7 million families and more than three million children.

2. Are there limits on how much TANF assistance someone can receive?

Although there are no federal rules that determine the amount of TANF benefits paid to a family, states do implement restrictions. The amount differs by state typically based on family size.

3. Are there limits on how long I can receive TANF benefits?

Yes. States impose their own limits, and there is a federal limit of 60 months in one’s lifetime. These 60 months can occur either cumulatively or consecutively.

4. Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to qualify for TANF assistance?

Yes. You must be a U.S. citizen or qualified non-citizen to qualify for TANF benefits.

5. How do I apply for TANF benefits?

You must apply for TANF benefits with a state or local agency. Typically you can apply online, though you may have to go in person. Required documents usually include: driver’s license or ID card, proof of residency, proof of income and proof of social security.