If I'm Unemployed Can I Get TANF?

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Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is the federal program designed to provide cash assistance to households transitioning between state assistance and self-sufficiency. The amount of money you can receive through the program varies depending on the state. If you are unemployed, TANF will provide you financial assistance until you are able to obtain employment. Certain work requirements must be met through the program.

Income Limits

If you are unemployed and receiving unemployment compensation benefits, you must fall within the income guidelines specified for eligibility in your state. For example, in Georgia, applicants are limited to 185 percent of the state Standard of Need (SON). Some states, such as Texas, offer a one-time emergency payment to households who experience a hardship, including a job loss. Income limits are generally higher. The income limit for an emergency payment is $3,052 for a household of three.

Finding Employment

You are required to return to work as soon as you are able to find employment and have the physical ability to work. Assistance is generally available for up to 60 months, however, you are expected to work within two years from the date you begin receiving TANF benefits. You must report employment to your TANF caseworker immediately. Any changes to your income will affect your benefits. If you exceed the income requirements once you become employed, you will no longer receive TANF payments.

Work Requirements

After you are approved for TANF, you must work or participate in a work-related activity for an average of 30 hours per week. If you have a child under age 6, the work requirement is reduced to an average of 20 hours per week. Work activities include on-the-job training, job searches, job readiness assistance, education related to employment or volunteer work. Your local TANF office can assist you with finding a job or suitable work activity. Some applicants are exempt from the work requirement, such as women in the ninth month of pregnancy.

Finding Employment

After you are certified to receive TANF benefits, you must attend an Employment Planning Session (EPS) to determine how you will be meeting the work requirement. If you need a referral for childcare or help with transportation, talk to the caseworker to make arrangements. Courses are available to help you search for a job or prepare for a job. For example, the Texas TANF features the Choices program to offer assistance writing resumes and interviewing for a job. If you are offered a job, you are required to accept any reasonable offer of at least 20 hours per week.

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