Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Introduction and Overview


The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant provides grants to states, Indian tribes, and territories for a wide range of benefits, services, and activities that address economic disadvantage. TANF is best known for funding state cash welfare programs for low-income families with children. It was created in the 1996 welfare reform law (The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, P.L. 104-193), replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) cash welfare program and several related programs. However, in FY2009, cash welfare represented only 28% of TANF funds. TANF funds a wide range of activities that seek to both ameliorate the effects and address the root causes of child poverty. In addition to state block grants, TANF includes competitive grants to fund healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood initiatives.

Federal TANF law is Title IV-A of the Social Security Act. At the federal level, TANF is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). However, benefits and services are provided by the states, territories, and tribes. TANF programs operate in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. American Samoa is eligible to operate a TANF program, but has not opted to do so.

The 1996 welfare reform law provided funding for TANF through FY2002. Subsequent to that, TANF was continued through a series of temporary extensions until enactment of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA, P.L. 109-171). The DRA funded TANF through FY2010. A one-year extension of TANF, through the end of FY2011, was included in the Claims Resolution Act of 2011 (P.L. 111-291). A subsequent three- month extension of TANF (P.L. 112-35) was enacted for the first quarter of FY2012.

Chapter Overview

This chapter of the Green Book includes a Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report detailing the financing and federal rules regarding the TANF block grant. It is followed by a section of Tables and Figures that includes tables on TANF expenditures and unspent grant funds, the cash assistance caseload, characteristics of the cash assistance caseload,  TANF cash assistance benefits, and work participation rates among cash assistance recipients. It concludes with a Legislative History of TANF and Links to Additional Resources, which include a set of links to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) web sites and research organizations for additional information about TANF.