Improving Economic Security Through Cash Assistance Programs

The cash assistance programs are a last bastion of our safety net, meant to provide very poor families with some relief from the worst aspects of deep poverty by offering small monthly stipends for limited amounts of time. These programs include the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF, formerly known as welfare), which helps families with children living in deep poverty meet their basic needs such as housing, utilities, and clothing costs, and the General Assistance program, which provides a small amount of cash assistance to very poor, often homeless, people with disabilities.

Despite the importance of these programs, participation in them has been steadily decreasing—even as poverty rates have grown. For example, enrollment in TANF has dropped by 40% since 2011.

These enrollment decreases can be attributed to serious problems with the state’s administration of these programs, as well as policy changes that have narrowed eligibility for them. The Center is advocating to resolve the most injurious administrative issues and expand eligibility rules. This work will impact the poorest families in our community, since only those with net incomes below 28% of the federal poverty level even qualify for the TANF program. By increasing access to TANF and General Assistance, more people will receive help meeting their practical, everyday needs, allowing them to move towards self-sufficiency.

TANF Toolkit

The TANF Toolkit resources are designed to assist direct service providers and individuals applying for or participating in TANF. The materials contain important information about the rights of TANF applicants and participants, including detailed information about what to do if benefits are reduced or terminated. The resources also contain forms that applicants and participants can use to seek exemptions from program requirements.

Informational Materials:

Forms to Assist TANF Applicants and Participants:

Other Project Resources

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