TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families)

The TANF program, a result of welfare reform in 1996, may provide money to your family if your grandchild is eligible. Helping Families Achieve Self Sufficiency: A Guide On Funding Services For Children & Families Through The TANF program:  is a downloadable guide in PDF format.

The Office of Family Assistance home page is: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ofa

Types of TANF Grants

You can be “on the grant” if the money you receive is for your support. You can also have a “child-only” grant for your grandchild only. In most states you can switch to a child-only grant, but some states have special rules about making that change.

If you are “on the grant”, you must have a job or do community service within two years. Some states may give you less time to do this and in some states, you do not have to get a job if:

  • Your grandchild is younger than 12 months.
  • You cannot find childcare for a grandchild under 6 years old.
  • You have a child-only grant if the TANF money you receive is for the support of your grandchild only. With a child-only grant:
  • There are no work requirements.
  • Your grandchild can probably get benefits for more than 5 years.
  • In most states, you will receive less money than if you also are on the grant.

“On the Grant” Rules

TANF offers financial help to families with a low income. The money comes from the federal government, but the states run the program. The states must follow some basic federal rules for TANF, including these two rules that could apply to grandparents who are raising grandchildren.

  1. Adults cannot receive TANF benefits for more than five years, the lifetime limit.
  2. Adults who receive TANF benefits must get a job when the state says you are ready.

The rules affecting grandparents and their grandchildren vary from state to state. Contact the department of social or human services in your county or state to find out about the rules in your state. Some states may have stricter rules than the basic federal ones. For example, they may require adults “on the grant” to get a job sooner than two years. Or, they may have a lifetime limit of less than five years for benefits.

Other TANF Rules

  • Cash benefits for adults are paid for two to five years during your entire life. This is your lifetime limit.
  • You already may have used part of your lifetime limit.
  • States can set up something called a hardship waiver for special situations. This allows some families to be excused from the lifetime limit.
  • States can also create new assistance programs with no lifetime limit.
  • Each state decides if legal immigrants can qualify for TANF benefits.

“Child Only Grant”

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) TANF provide s financial assistance in the form of cash assistance to help families care for children who need help. This program also provides help to children who have been deprived of parental support or care. The child will automatically receive medical assistance with a “Child Only Grant”.

If you are a working grandparent, and receive a “Child Only Grant” you can also get daycare paid for the children (with no co-payment). If the grandparent chooses not to apply for or receive the cash assistance, the grandparent has the option of applying only for medical assistance for the child.

You do not have to be a guardian of the child to receive TANF.

Grandchildren with no income of their own, under their grand parent’s care, are eligible to receive Child Only grants under the TANF program.

The grandparent’s income and assets are not counted in the child’s eligibility.

The following factors must be established to be eligible for a TAN F “Child Only Grant”:

  1. Prove you are related to the child through birth certificates and/or other legal documents.
  2. Prove that the child is living with you. Letters from a neighbor, school, doctor, child care provider, or clergy are acceptable.
  3. Provide proof of the grandchild’s citizenship; that the child was born in the
    United States. If the child is not a U.S. citizen, provide proof of immigration status.
  4. Provide a Social Security number for each child applying f r assistance. If the child does not have one, you will need to apply for one at the Social Security Office and bring proof of that application.
  5. Provide proof of health insurance, if the child has health insurance.
  6. Provide proof of any income and/or assets belonging to the grandchild.
  7. You will be asked to provide information about the birth parents, and cooperate in attempting to obtain child support from them. You do not have to do this if it may harm you or the child. You w ill still be able to obtain a “Child Only Grant”.

If you receive a TANF “Child Only grant”, and if either or both non-custodial parents pay child support for the child, (children) the child support payment must go the State .The Department of Human Services will give youth e full TANF “Child Only Grant”, plus $50..00 of the child support payment each month.

If the child support payment is more than the “Child Only Grant”, you will get all of the child support payment plus medical assistance, but not the TANF “Child Only Grant” payment.

Getting Help in Your Community

Do you think you might qualify for TANF benefits?

Do you want to apply? Do you have questions about benefits you are already receiving?

Talk to:

  • your caseworker
  • your caseworker’s supervisor
  • local legal services organizations
  • local or state child and family advocates
  • local or state social services offices
  • local or state elected officials

TANF rules are different in different states. Here are questions you should ask.

  • Is my family eligible?
  • Am I, or should I be, “on the grant?”
  • Is a “child-only” grant better for my family? How do I apply?
  • Do the time limits and work requirements apply to my family? Can I get a waiver?
  • Is there a separate state program for grandparent-headed families that does not have time limits and work requirements? How does it work?