Chapter 7: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Overview

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant provides grants to states, Indian tribes, and territories for a wide range of benefits, services, and activities that address economic disadvantage. TANF is best known for funding state cash welfare programs for low-income families with children. It was created in the 1996 welfare reform law (The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, P.L. 104-193), replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) cash welfare program and several related programs. In FY2015, states reported that cash welfare represented only 25% of state and federal spending in the TANF program, and states now use TANF funds for a wide range of activities that seek to both ameliorate the effects and address the root causes of child poverty. In addition to state block grants, TANF includes competitive grants to fund healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood initiatives.

Federal TANF law is contained in Title IV-A of the Social Security Act. At the federal level, TANF is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). However, benefits and services are provided by the states, territories, and tribes, which have broad flexibility in how to administer their programs. TANF programs operate in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. American Samoa is eligible to operate a TANF program, but has not opted to do so.

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports

The House Ways and Means Committee is making available selected reports by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) for inclusion in its 2016 Green Book website. CRS works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to Committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. For prior reports, please see the 2012 Green Book and 2014 Green Book.

IF10036: The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant

RL32748: The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant: A Primer on TANF Financing and Federal Requirements

RL32760: The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant: Responses to Frequently Asked Questions

R44668: The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant: A Legislative History 

Legislative History

The following provides a legislative history of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

R44668: The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant: A Legislative History

This page was prepared October 2016 for the 2016 version of the House Ways and Means Committee Green Book.