How is TANF different from “Welfare”?


As posted on
By: Alecia Stanton

While most have heard of the term “welfare”, many are unaware of the program it is actually referring to, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. Still, a very large percent of people do not quite know what welfare or TANF is. If you are a single parent and struggling, this is what you should know:


TANF is designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency. It seeks to ensure that children can be cared for in their own homes and  promotes job preparation, work and marriage, though it also provides assistance to single parents.

How it Works

Each state receives a block grant and are allowed to run their own program. Each state has its own guidelines and eligibility.You can find information regarding your state’s TANF program here. Each state’s programs consist of different types of assistance, such as cash aid, child care, and transportation.

Common Guidelines

In all states, programs are for needy families with children. There is a 60 month (5 year) limit  for most families, excluding “child-only” families, in which only the child is receiving families. Legal immigrants are not eligible until they have been in the U.S for five years. States must require recipients to participate in “work activities” (check here for details). Recipients must also find work no later than two years from start of receiving assistance. Work must consist of no less than 20 hours per week if you are a single parent or have a child less than six years of age.

If you are having a hard time, check to see what kind of assistance your state’s TANF program has available and whether you qualify.

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