The Center For Debt Management
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Temporary Assistance To Needy Families (TANF) Fact Sheet

Background and Purpose

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program was created by the Welfare Reform Law of 1996 (the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act or PRWORA). TANF became effective July 1, 1997, and replaced what was commonly known as welfare: Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the AFDC Emergency Assistance program, and the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) programs.

Title I of PRWORA included Charitable Choice provisions that apply to the TANF program. The provisions give States the authority to administer and provide TANF services through contracts with charitable, religious, or private organizations. The provisions also allow the State to provide its clientele with certificates, vouchers, or other forms of disbursement, which are redeemable with such organizations. Hence, the State may provide direct or indirect services to TANF–eligible clientele through these organizations. The provisions also set forth certain requirements to ensure that faith–based and community–based organizations are able to compete on equal footing for funds under the TANF program, without impairing the religious character of such organizations or diminishing the religious freedom of the State’s TANF clientele.

In 2003, HHS issued a final rule implementing the Charitable Choice statutory provisions in PRWORA as amended. The statute and final rule establish requirements for State and local governments that administer or provide TANF services and benefits through contracts or through certificates, vouchers, or other forms of disbursement. The requirements and protections also apply to organizations (including faith–based organizations) that provide services and benefits with TANF funds and to the beneficiaries of those services.

Federal funding for TANF is available to States in the form of a block grant. States and Territories may use their block grant in ways that are reasonably calculated to accomplish any of the four statutory purposes of the TANF program:

  • Assisting needy families with children so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives (includes providing low–income households with assistance in meeting home heating and cooling costs);

  • Reducing dependency on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage;

  • Reducing and preventing out–of–wedlock pregnancies; and

  • Encouraging the formation and maintenance of two–parent families.

  • For example, support services may include individual and family counseling, nonmedical drug and alcohol treatment, and literacy or bilingual education for TANF–eligible families. For information on how the funds are used in your community, contact the TANF agency in your State.

For example, support services may include individual and family counseling, nonmedical drug and alcohol treatment, and literacy or bilingual education for TANF–eligible families. For information on how the funds are used in your community, contact the TANF agency in your State.


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