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Did TANF provide adequate support to families during the recent recession?

Throughout the recent recession, the share of TANF recipients rose only slightly, especially in comparison to other government assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps). SNAP caseloads increased dramatically to meet rising need, as an entitlement program. As of March 2010, the share of SNAP recipients rose by 48%, as more families applied and many more became eligible, whereas TANF caseloads rose only 12% nationwide since December 2007. In many states caseloads remained stagnant or even declined.

The objectives of TANF to increase job participation proved challenging as unemployment rose and job availability declined. Families that overcame the difficulties of job searching during the period of such high employment and were able to find employment while receiving TANF benefits often held low-wage or part-time position with few opportunities for advancement. The meager income from these positions hindered employees from independently rising out of poverty. These positions were also among the greatest hit when employers cut back on job positions in 2008 and 2009, thus pushing families back into unemployment.