Goals for TANF Reauthorization

TANF is a flawed but essential part of the safety net for very low-income families with children. While cash benefits are meager–half or less of the poverty level in all states–they provide much-needed cash assistance to families at critical times in their lives, such as periods of unemployment or disability, when escaping from domestic violence, or when a baby is born. TANF also can provide access to paths out of poverty through services such as counseling for mental health issues, job training, and subsidized employment programs. States also use the block grant is for a wide range of work supports, including child care and transportation, for both recipients of cash assistance and other low-income families

At its best, the TANF block grant provides a flexible funding stream that allows states to ask what families truly need to succeed, and to provide as much or as little as needed. However, this potential is all too often unfulfilled.

To learn more, read this brief by Elizabeth Lower-Basch.