Applying for TANF

When it comes to applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants must prepare to meet certain eligibility requirements.

Each state is responsible for creating its own version of the TANF program, so these specific requirements often vary. However, TANF guidelines regarding eligibility largely focus on factors like income, age, residency and participation in work programs.

In order to apply, applicants must contact the TANF program in their state and complete an application. The information provided on this form must be as thorough and accurate as possible, and pertain to all members of the household.

TANF applications are accepted in a variety of ways, including online, by mail and in person. In order to complete the process, applicants must also participate in an interview before receiving approval for benefits. Further information regarding the process to apply for TANF is outlined below.

TANF Eligibility Requirements

When it comes to eligibility for TANF, several factors are taken into consideration, including income, age and residency. In general, all applicants must be U.S. citizens or have proof of legal presence in the country in order to qualify. Though it is a federal program, applicants must also be residents of the state where they apply.

This is because each state gets its own funding to create a version of the TANF program, so exact eligibility requirements may vary. Eligible TANF applicants may receive Social Security benefits such as SSI only for the disabled members of the household. 

Income

As a cash assistance program, qualification for TANF is largely determined by income. Enrollment is aimed at low-income families, so each state TANF program establishes certain income limits applicants must not exceed. These limits are based on the local cost of living in each state, or in some cases, each county or region.

In addition to income, some states also take assets into consideration. During an assets exam, your TANF agency will examine the different assets you have, including:

  • Bank accounts.
  • Vehicles.
  • Properties.

Each state has its own limits on the dollar amount of assets you are permitted to hold and still receive benefits. In some cases, your assets may not affect your eligibility at all.

Age

As the name implies, the TANF program was created in order to provide families with financial support. This means that qualified households must have dependent children that are 18 years old or younger.

Exceptions are made for 19 year olds who still attend high school full-time. Cash assistance may also be available to pregnant women who meet all other qualifications. Teen parents may be eligible under certain circumstances as well. 

Work/School

TANF benefits are meant to provide temporary financial relief to families who need it. Those who apply are often facing a recent job loss and need help providing for their families.

For this reason, part of TANF enrollment involves participation in educational and career programs to prepare them to reenter the workforce. TANF beneficiaries are often required to spend a certain amount of time in these programs in order to maintain their enrollment. However, there are certain exemptions.

In addition, many TANF programs have attendance requirements for children. To continue receiving the same level of benefits, beneficiaries must ensure that their children are consistently attending school.

Where to Get a TANF Application

In order to get an application you must apply in the state where you live. Though each state runs its own version of the TANF program, you can usually obtain and submit your application in one of three ways:

  • Online: Many states now have a convenient online portal through which you can access your TANF application. Once you create an account and fill out the form, you can often use this portal to track the status of your application.
  • In person: Most states also allow you to apply in person. In fact, some states only accept applications that are hand-delivered to the TANF office.
  • Over the phone or fax: In some cases, you may have the option to fax your application to the TANF office, or provide your information over the phone. However, you are still required to deliver your supporting documents in some way.
  • By mail: If an address is provided, some offices accept TANF applications by mail. If you choose this method, make sure to include all the necessary documents in the envelope and verify the address before you send it.

If you need assistance completing your application, help is readily available. The TANF program is required to provide accommodations for applicants who need their forms translated or filled out on their behalf.

To request this assistance, simply notify your local TANF office by phone or during your visit. The Social Security benefits application may also provide applicants information about how to apply for TANF.

How to Apply for TANF

Once you choose a submission method, the next step in the TANF application process is completing your form. Each application form is divided up into several different sections, which you must fill out as completely and accurately as possible. Incorrect or incomplete information can result in a processing delay, or even a denial of your application altogether.

Along with your cash assistance application, you must also prepare certain supporting documents. These are used to verify the information you wrote on the application and confirm your qualification for the program. The type of documents you may need include:

  • Proof of identity, including your valid state ID or Social Security card.
  • Proof of residency, such as official pieces of mail that list your name and address.
  • Proof of legal presence, such as a U.S. passport or immigration documents.
  • Income and asset records, such as bank statements and pay stubs.
  • Rent documents that state the amount you pay each month, such as a lease agreement.

While your application is being processed, the caseworker assigned to you may request additional documentation as needed. Overall, you are expected to provide information on every member of your household to correctly determine your eligibility.

These details also allow the TANF office to calculate the amount of benefits you can receive. Check your Social Security benefits recipient status, as it may also influence your eligibility for TANF benefits. Therefore, you should report any additional benefits you receive to the caseworker handling your case.

Participating in a TANF interview is the next step in the application process. If your application is accepted, you will receive a notice outlining a date and time for your interview. During this interview, you may be asked to supply additional paperwork, or answer further questions regarding your household.

In general, processing takes up to 60 days for TANF applications. Once a decision is reached, your TANF office will send a notice announcing your denial or approval for the program. If you are accepted, this letter will also outline the amount of benefits you are eligible for. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program can also be applied to for additional assistance.

Alternately, if you receive a denial, the TANF letter will provide reasons why your application was rejected, and explain the appeals process.