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TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)

Urban Institute experts examine the effectiveness of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and provide evidence for future policy decisions.


A federal block grant to states, territories and tribes to cover benefits, administration and services targeted to needy families with children. TANF emphasizes self sufficiency through work participation requirements, benefit time limits, and initiatives to encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

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Addressing the "Benefits Cliff" and Encouraging Work for Welfare Recipients (Testimony)
Heather Hahn

In this testimony before the State of Vermont House Committee on Human Resources, Heather Hahn discusses proposed changes to Vermont's TANF program, and more generally, the "benefits cliff" and work incentives that participants experience as they strive for self-sufficiency. Hahn explains how the key policy levers - asset tests and the earned income disregards - affect the benefits cliff and work incentives. She also places Vermont's Reach Up rules in the context of other states' TANF rules and discusses other important issues to consider in conjunction with changes in these rules.

Posted to Web: February 26, 2014Publication Date: February 26, 2014

Overlapping Eligibility and Enrollment: Human Services and Health Programs Under the Affordable Care Act (Research Report)
Stan Dorn, Julia Isaacs, Sarah Minton, Erika Huber, Paul Johnson, Matthew Buettgens, Laura Wheaton

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has created new opportunities for health and human services programs to integrate eligibility determination, enrollment, and retention. Using two large microsimulation models—the Transfer Income Model, Version 3, and the Health Insurance Policy Simulation Model—we find considerable overlaps between expanded eligibility for health coverage and current receipt of human services benefits, particularly with Earned Income Tax Credits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. In an appendix, we identify specific data sharing strategies that seek to increase participation, lower administrative costs, and prevent errors.

Posted to Web: February 18, 2014Publication Date: December 01, 2013

Health Profession Opportunity Grants: Year Two Annual Report (2011-2012) (Research Report)
Theresa Anderson, Pamela J. Loprest, Teresa Derrick-Mills, Lauren Eyster, Elaine Morley, Alan Werner

The Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program, established by the Affordable Care Act of 2010, funds training programs in high-demand healthcare professions, targeted to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients and other low-income individuals. In 2010, the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded 32 HPOG grantees in 23 states with five-year grants. This Annual Report provides an overview of HPOG grantees, characteristics of participants, activities in which participants were engaged, training and employment outcomes, and how grantee programs continued to evolve in the second year of the program.

Posted to Web: February 18, 2014Publication Date: January 29, 2014

A Descriptive Study of Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Programs (Research Report)
Heather Hahn, Olivia Healy, Walter Hillabrant, Chris Narducci

This study provides an in-depth, systematic look at program implementation, operations, outputs, and outcomes in four diverse Tribal TANF programs, and identifies promising practices and areas for further study. Overall, the study found that tribes use the flexibility of Tribal TANF to create diverse programs that reflect their unique circumstances, opportunities, and cultures. Elements of tribal culture were evident in the way program staff and clients interacted and in the types of activities in which clients were engaged. The Tribal TANF programs examined in the study generally focus on the broad goal of self-sufficiency, beyond the narrower goal of employment.

Posted to Web: January 14, 2014Publication Date: December 06, 2013

Welfare Rules Databook: State TANF Policies as of July 2012 (Data/Welfare Rules Databook)
David Kassabian, Erika Huber, Elissa Cohen, Linda Giannarelli

The Welfare Rules Databook provides tables containing key Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) policies for each state as of July 2012, as well as longitudinal tables describing selected state policies from 1996 through 2012. The tables are based on the information in the Welfare Rules Database (WRD), a publicly available, online database tracking state cash assistance policies over time and across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Databook summarizes a subset of the information in the WRD. Users interested in a greater level of detail are encouraged to use the full database, available at http://anfdata.urban.org/wrd.

Posted to Web: December 13, 2013Publication Date: November 01, 2013

Evaluation of the $150 Child Support Pass-Through and Disregard Policy in the District of Columbia (Research Report)
Kye Lippold, Austin Nichols, Elaine Sorensen

In April 2006, the District of Columbia implemented a child support pass-through and disregard policy for families in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) caseload, passing through the first $150 per month of child support paid to these families and disregarding this amount when determining their TANF benefits. This study provides a process evaluation of the policy implementation and uses a difference-in-difference framework to assess policy impacts. Our results suggest that noncustodial parents with a current support order for children on TANF paid 5.6 percent more child support as a result of the pass-through policy.

Posted to Web: March 29, 2013Publication Date: November 29, 2010

Unemployment from a Child's Perspective (Research Report)
Julia Isaacs

This issue brief examines unemployment from a child's perspective, reporting that 6.2 million children lived in families with unemployed parents in 2012. Many of these children live with parents who have been out of work six month or longer. Unemployment insurance covers only 36 percent of children with unemployed parents; unemployed parents are more likely to receive SNAP benefits than UI benefits. The brief provides estimates of children affected by unemployment by state and metropolitan area, considers the effects of parental job loss on child development, and reviews policies affecting the safety net for children of the unemployed.

Posted to Web: March 25, 2013Publication Date: March 25, 2013

Introduction to the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program and First Year Implementation and Outcomes (Research Report)
Theresa Anderson, Jamie Hall, Teresa Derrick-Mills

The Affordable Care Act established the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) Program to provide training programs in high-demand health care professions to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients and other low-income individuals. In 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services provided five-year grants to 32 grantees in 23 states. In its first year of funding, HPOG grantees launched their programs and enrolled and trained substantial numbers of participants. This brief describes the program and the progress made by grantees in the first year of funding. It also describes efforts to evaluate the success of HPOG.

Posted to Web: February 26, 2013Publication Date: February 26, 2013

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