The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant (commonly referred to as “Welfare”) was created under the 1996 welfare reform legislation. Unlike the previous welfare entitlement programs, TANF is a block grant that a state can use to fund cash assistance (also known as basic assistance), administrative expenses, and services to families. By restructuring the program into a block grant, the federal government hoped to provide an incentive for states to move families towards self-sufficiency. The intention was that as fewer families received cash assistance the state would free up funds to spend on other programs. Georgia receives $368 million annually in federal TANF funds.
The federal government sets basic guidelines for TANF eligibility, allowing states to determine more specific eligibility qualifications. In general, TANF programs are directed towards low-income families with dependent children. States also have the authority to change eligibility depending on the specific program.
Under federal requirements, TANF funds must be used for the following four purposes:
1. Assist needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes.
2. Reduce the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage.
3. Prevent out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
4. Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.
States have a lot of flexibility to spend funds if they can prove that one of these goals can be attained.
Although TANF funding is spread throughout many of the Department of Human Services’ programs, funding is primarily spent in five programs — Out of Home Care ($118,205,301), Child Welfare Services ($62,995,915), After School Care ($14,000,000), work assistance program ($17,825,011) and the cash assistance program ($54,225,681).
During the 2006 legislative session, the Senate led the push for the creation of the After School Care program, which coordinates and helps fund various after-school efforts of various private non-profit organizations, the largest of which is through the Boys and Girls Club. Not only has this enabled these organizations to continue to help thousands of economically disadvantaged youth, but the program also plays a critical role in helping the state meet its federally mandated maintenance-of-effort requirements for TANF. Maintenance of effort is the match required of the state that can be “in-kind.”
It is a common misconception that TANF is just a traditional welfare check program. Previous aid to dependent children really just provided cash assistance to low income families. TANF requirements allow Georgia to spend most of its TANF grant on services. Georgia currently spends less than 25 percent of its grant on cash assistance and has steadily decreased the number of families who do receive cash assistance over the past decade. More than 80 percent of the current cash assistance cases are for children only, many of whom live with their grandparents or other family members. For a family of four, the maximum monthly amount is $330. The average monthly cash benefit amount has been around $255. Families with two parents are not eligible to receive TANF cash assistance.
TANF Emergency Fund
This month marks the end of the TANF Emergency Funds. The Recovery Act, passed in 2009, included $5 billion for states to help cover increased expenditures for basic assistance, subsidized employment, and short-term non-recurrent benefits. These strict requirements caused many states, including Georgia, to forfeit money because of the lack of programs that would be eligible. In Georgia, even though the state was eligible for $165.3 million, as of June, the state had only requested $66 million and is expected to spend approximately $60 million. So far, $29.7 million has been spent on subsidized employment opportunities for teens and adults. For adults, employers were only asked to cover 20 percent of these temporary workers’ wages, while the remaining 80 percent was covered by the Recovery funds. The hope was that employers would then hire these individuals after the program ended. For teens, the program covered 100 percent of their wages.
The remaining TANF Emergency funds were spent on a variety of other programs, including a fresh start program implemented in conjunction with United Way to help TANF eligible families pay outstanding bills. To date, this program has expended approximately $5.3 million. The legislature also included in the budget several TANF Emergency fund programs as well, including a summer camp program in conjunction with Boys and Girls clubs. While this program was implemented by the Department, DHS decided to finance the program with Child Care funds. And instead, Boys and Girls Club used the TANF Emergency funds to finance teen work opportunities.
The TANF Grant, more than previous programs focuses on services and self improvement leading to a job for the recipient.
I may be reached at
234 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 656-5038 (phone)
(404) 657-7094 (fax)
E-mail at Jack.Hill@senate.ga.gov
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Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811