Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Learn More & Help Make A Change
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, is a program designed to provide assistance for families in desperate times of need. Operating as a federal block grant which is managed and regulated at the state level, it is intended as a resource of last resort for individuals and families who have fallen on severely hard circumstances. Established out of the effort for welfare reform in 1996, the original funding source expired at the end of the government’s 2002 fiscal year (September). Funding has since operated as a bandage for the program, consisting of a long series of short-term continuances.
Accordingly, the qualifications and benefits of the program have severely eroded in that time. As of this writing, only those families at 17% or less of the federal poverty level qualify, and even then, standard financial assistance of $288 monthly don’t even approach the lowest of rent or mortgage payments. This means that only about 16,000 of the nearly 1,000,000 Hoosiers experiencing poverty received TANF assistance last year, and most did not receive enough assistance to make a meaningful difference in their circumstances. Additionally, while TANF is intended to provide direct assistance to families in need, states are able to get somewhat creative with their appropriation of TANF grant dollars so long as there is some relation between the spending and benefits for qualifying families. As recently as 2016, this resulted in Indiana using only about 6% of the allotted $302 million for direct financial assistance. A vast majority (94%) goes to programs and case management service that help parents find jobs. Cash benefits as well as education/training benefits are necessary to help parents focus on obtaining the skills necessary to compete in an increasingly technological job market.
Change is long overdue. For more information and to learn what you can do to make a difference and help make a change, visit the Indiana Institute for Working Families website. To view click HERE.
by Rob Krasa, LUM intern