Family Income Support

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In Focus: TANF Serves Hardly Any Families Living in Poverty in Some States
Report

Cash Assistance Should Reach Millions More Families

March 4, 2020

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Since TANF’s creation in 1996, its reach has declined dramatically. In 2018, for every 100 families in poverty, only 22?received direct financial assistance from TANF.

The Family Income Support (FIS) team at CBPP researches and analyzes federal and state issues related to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and helps states design their TANF programs to reach more eligible families and meet their particular needs. FIS also issues analyses detailing the harmful impact of proposals that would weaken anti-poverty programs and lifting up evidence on promising policies to expand work opportunities to struggling workers.

The TANF block grant, with which states provide direct financial assistance, child care, education and job training, and other services to low-income families, was created in 1996 to replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).

FIS’ research has found TANF reaches many fewer poor families than it used to, and TANF benefits have lost a fifth of their value since 1996 in most states, making it very hard for families to meet basic needs. FIS analyses have also shown that states’ spending has shifted away from core areas of basic assistance, work programs and supports, and child care to other state programs and services.