As you’ve probably already realized, money’s getting tighter and tighter for everyone nowadays. While things are calming down with the whole pandemic thing, there’s still a pretty strong economic shock because of it. A lot of companies are struggling to get back on their feet. Even little mom-and-pop shops are finding it challenging to open back up for business. While the success of businesses around us is not our personal top priority, there’s no denying that their success directly impacts us. Due to companies closing down, jobs have been getting more scarce. That means a lot of folks out there are struggling to find well-paying jobs if any at all.
Another challenge that often happens during times like these is managing to financially stay afloat without incurring too many debts to pay later. Private lenders often thrive during financial downtimes because a lot of people will immediately go for that option rather than explore less consequential ones.
How The Government Will Help You In Times Of Need
It’s really important to know that there are quite a few governmental programs to help you out. A lot of these programs aim to help those struggling financially. The trick is to know what programs are available, and which of them you qualify for. You don’t want to spend time and effort applying for programs that you won’t get any benefits from in the future. Thankfully, the government created a website just for that. Benefits.gov basically lists most-if-not-all government assistance programs available. The website also has a function called Benefit Finder. It’s basically a very simple questionnaire that helps you find the government assistance programs you qualify for. So, we recommend taking the time to go through that questionnaire, you really don’t want to miss out on free opportunities for financial help.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
The star of this article is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF for short. This program spans the whole nation. TANF also covers US territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Under this program, the federal government provides state governments with $16.5 billion. Then, state governments take on the responsibility of running the program. Since state governments are the ones in control of the funds, they’re also in control of the qualifications and benefits that come with TANF. That means if you apply in Wyoming, you might be asked to fulfill different qualifications than if you apply in New York.
That arrangement also means that the federal government won’t just give families cash hand-outs directly. Instead, state governments supervise TANF applications and locate benefits as they see fit. State governments will also use TANF funds to finance services designed for those families to get back on their feet and achieve self-sufficiency. State governments, under TANF, aim to achieve the following goals:
- TANF provides assistance to families to help children grow up in their family homes. If not, children should grow up in their relatives’ homes.
- State governments will use TANF to promote job preparation, work, and marriage. That way, parents can stop relying on government assistance.
- The program also aims to decrease the rate of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
- TANF focuses on developing and maintaining two-parent homes
Here’s How To Apply For Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Ok, now we have a clear picture of what the program is and what it aims to achieve. Now, we need to take a look at how to apply for TANF and hopefully get its benefits. First, you’ll need to contact your local social services office and/or your local TANF office. Those 2 types of offices should be able to provide you with all information regarding TANF. Getting to know everything about the program should help you avoid wasting any time or effort while applying.
After familiarizing yourself with the program, you should look into filling out the application required. You could fill out the application online or fill out a written one to be sent by mail. When the application is completed properly, someone from social services will contact you. They’ll confirm all the information with you and someone from the government will want to schedule an interview with you. That interview can be at any time of your convenience. You can have that interview in person or on the phone, also you can choose whether to have it at home or at social services. The application is free-of-charge so it can’t hurt to try either way.
Who TANF Is Meant For
This is where we talk about eligibility for TANF. As we’ve mentioned earlier, state governments are the ones who run the program. That means qualifications for TANF may vary from one state to the next. But, the main common factor is that TANF will focus on low-income families with children. So, regardless of differences between different states’ qualification differences, applicants must satisfy the following terms:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families will only help low-income families
- Families that apply for TANF must include one or more children/dependents under the age of 18.
As we’ve also mentioned earlier, there’s a limited amount of TANF funds assigned to each state. So, besides qualifying criteria for the program, there are disqualifying ones. This list is meant to filter out the families that either don’t need the assistance or have taken certain actions to disqualify themselves from the program:
- Applicants who provide false information might be disqualified
- Social services/TANF offices may disqualify any applicants who have a record of conviction of specific felony offenses
- Anyone who violates parole or probation will struggle to qualify for TANF
- If you’ve already received 5 years of TANF benefits, you’ll probably not be able to apply again
- Things can get pretty complex with your application if you already receive child support funds
- Those who immigrated to the US after 1996 will have to be living in the country for at least 5 years before applying for TANF.
You Don’t Just Get Hand-Outs Through TANF, You Work For Them
Circling back to the goals TANF aims to achieve, you’ll notice they focus heavily on developing stable homes. That’s why TANF focuses on pushing parents toward getting well-paid jobs. TANF will also focus on improving those parents’ professional skills, to help them get those jobs. That’s why refusing to get a job might disqualify you from receiving TANF benefits.
In most cases, you need to be working or at least applying for jobs to receive your TANF benefits. However, there are some cases in which you can receive those benefits without working. These cases are not applicable to every state. Some states created certain scenarios to help those who would struggle to get a job:
- Applicants may receive TANF benefits without working if they are taking care of a child who is one year old or younger
- Some states will allow elderly people (above 60 years of age) to receive TANF benefits without having a job
- If you’re a veteran who suffers from a disability and you receive disability benefits from the Department of Veteran Affairs you may be exempted from having to work.
- Being pre-approved for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability payments from the Social Security Administration can help you receive TANF benefits without having a job.
How Do State Governments Qualify For TANF Funds From The Federal Government?
We’ve discussed earlier how the federal government created the program and uses it to distribute funds among state governments. We also talked about how the program revolves around pushing parents to have stable jobs. If parents manage to have a stable income, this directly affects the stability of their families. That’s why the federal government has standards state governments must meet.
So, the federal government created a standard called Work Participation Rates, or WPR for short. WPR calculates the number of work-eligible TANF benefit recipients. This standard is broken down into 2 criteria: an all-family rate and a two-parent family rate. When it comes to the all-family rate, the federal requires state governments to have at least 50% of families receiving TANF benefits to be working for at least 30 hours a week. Single parents with children under the age of 6 are expected to work at least 20 hours a week.
Then there’s the two-parent families rate. The federal government expects states to have families run by 2 parents to work at least 35 hours a week. Each state that participates in the TANF program will be expected to have a 90% two-parent families work rate to maintain its TANF funding.
What Kind Of Jobs Would Count Towards My Working Hours?
If you start getting confused about what kind of jobs count towards your working hours, it’s completely understandable. Since also applying for jobs can count towards the working hours we’re here to help you clear things out. According to a 1996 law, there are 12 categories of jobs. Activities such as participating in education and training can also count towards your working hours. So, we recommend taking the time to read about the whole thing so you can have a clear picture of what’s expected of you.
You Don’t Want To Tick Off The Federal Government While Receiving Your TANF Benefits
While the federal government hands out the funds to state governments and lets them run the program, there are certain cases where the federal government might take some direct actions. The federal government will push state governments to cut TANF benefits from beneficiaries who refuse to get a job, at least without a good reason. The issue is that cut-offs/sanctions can get pretty serious. In most states, when a beneficiary loses his/her TANF benefits, the whole family loses their benefits. The government calls this a “full family sanction.”
Training And Education Programs Under TANF
TANF beneficiaries should really look into Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) provided by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA). According to the government, “TTA helps TANF agencies strengthen their programs so they can improve the well-being and promote the self-sufficiency of TANF participants and TANF-eligible individuals. Training and technical assistance specialists provide program expertise, resources, information, and connections to research and practice specialists.”
OFA provides training and technical assistance in a wide variety of forms. These forms can be “webinars, virtual workshops, and online forums, as well as site exchanges, roundtables, and site visits.” There’s a website called the OFA Peer TA. This website offers a comprehensive list of all TTA activities.
Among the activities offered through Peer TA are Peer connections. That’s where different TANF community members can meet and support each other. This helps answer questions regarding the program. There’s also an Online Learning center where TANF community members can find online courses and webinars.
Many families out there are struggling to stay financially stable during these difficult times. A global pandemic, along with international political differences has caused the economy to slow down. This economic struggle causes many businesses either to close down or to let go of some workers. Obviously, the government is very aware of this issue. If one thing matters, it is that American families should live in a safe and comfortable manner. That’s why there are a bunch of government assistance programs available to help low-income families. To find out all the information regarding these assistance programs, you should check out Benefits.gov.
This article focused on one program, in particular, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. This program focuses on providing financial assistance to low-income families that include children. The federal government created the program but leaves it in the hands of state governments to run. It’s really important to take the time to understand the program as it comes with a lot of caveats. But, what you need to know is that your family needs to be of low income. Also, you and your husband/wife need to be working, or at least trying to get a job to qualify for it.