Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a program that provides cash assistance to clients who care for children and to pregnant clients.
The TANF program is meant to assist families who are experiencing periods of unemployment or under-employment. The TANF program is also available for children who are living with certain other adults who are not their parents and are not responsible for their support. In this type of situation, the adult applying for the child(ren) is called “non-needy”. The income and resources of a non-needy adult are considered when determining eligibility of a needy child. TANF is a grant program, which means the funds a family receives under this program do not have to be repaid. There is a maximum 60-month lifetime limit on TANF for adult household members.
Grant standards for TANF are based on several factors including household size, whether or not a household is responsible for shelter costs, resources and any income the household may have. When considering a family’s eligibility for TANF, with a few limited exceptions, all household income is counted towards the grant amount. Unearned income is considered dollar for dollar while earned income is allowed certain limited deductions from the gross amount before it is counted.
TANF benefits are made available clients on the first day of each month. Rather than checks being mailed to the clients, funds are now available through an electronic fund transfer system. Clients access their benefits using their Quest/EBT card. TANF benefits can usually be accessed at ATM and Point of Sale machines nationwide.
Whenever a family applies for TANF, they must meet certain eligibility criteria. In addition to meeting eligibility criteria, there are responsibilities that the adult household members must fulfill.
Eligibility criteria include but are not limited to the following:
- Must meet citizenship/alien status requirements
- Must live in the state of Washington
- Cannot live in a public institution
- Must provide the department with social security numbers for all household members
- Must cooperate with the Division of Child Support in obtaining child support from absent parents.
- Must meet income limits as required by Washington Administrative Code.
- Must meet resource requirements as required by Washington Administrative Code
- Must participate in the **Workfirst program
- Adults who do not have a child living with them must be pregnant to be considered for TANF eligibility
TANF applicants and recipients must not have resources that exceed the allowed limits. These limits are different amounts for applicants; people who are applying for benefits, than for recipients; people who are already on the TANF program. Below is a list of some of the resources that do and do not count for the TANF program. It is not all-inclusive by any means. It is simply to give you an idea of what the department looks at when determining eligibility. Some of the resources that count for TANF include:
- Cash on hand
- Money in checking and savings accounts
- Money market accounts or CDs less any withdrawal penalty
- Available retirement or pension funds, less any withdrawal penalty
- Sales contracts
- Equity value in excess of $5,000 for one vehicle
Some of the resources that DO NOT count for TANF include:
- Home that the applicant/recipient lives in
- Personal effects such as furniture and clothing
- Bona fide loans, including student loans
- Basic Food benefits
- Property/equipment used for self-employment
- Equity value of a vehicle that is less than $5,000 of the fair market value
To be eligible for TANF, a family’s countable income must be below the grant standard for their family size. When looking at eligibility for TANF, the department must consider all income owned or possessed by a family to determine a family’s eligibility and benefit level. When the department looks at income, it first considers who owns it and whether or not it is available to the household. When a household has income that the department must budget against the family grant amount, it is budget prospectively, which means the department estimates the house hold’s income based on all available monies and then budget what the department can reasonably expect the household to receive.
Some of the income types that must be counted against a TANF grant include:
- Earned income from the adult members of the household
- Labor and Industry payments
- Unemployment payments
- Disability payments
- Social Security benefits
- Child support or alimony
- Retirement benefits
- Tribal Gaming monies
Some of the income types that DO NOT count include:
- SSI payments
- Federal earned income tax credit (EITC) payments
- Certain Foster care payments
- Bona fide loans
- Energy Assistance payments
- Certain Native American benefits such as Per Capita payments
Just as the resource list is not all-inclusive, neither is the list of counted and exempt income. It is only included to make you aware that there are many types of income that clients receive and many ways to look at it. In order to accurately determine eligibility and budget income, you must receive numerous additional hours of training so that you can have an understanding of the the complex rules that govern the programs the department administers.
**Workfirst is the program Washington State established to help TANF clients achieve self-support. Under the Workfirst program, all able-bodied adults who receive a TANF grant must either be looking for work or preparing for work. The program has many components designed to assist clients with job seeking and job readiness. Clients who fail to participate are subject to reduced or grant amounts and payees who are assigned to administer their TANF funds or possible termination of benefits.
How to Apply: