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Glossary of Terms Related to TANF

AFDC: Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was a program jointly financed by the federal and state government to provide cash assistance to needy families with children. The program ran from 1935 to 1995, and replaced by TANF in 1996.


ARRA: The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was legislated in 2009 to provide emergency support during the 2008-09 recession. TANF was provided additional funds in this legislation.


Authorization: An act of Congress that establishes or continues a federal program, and sets the guidelines to which it must adhere. Often, programs are authorized for a limited time (e.g. 5 years) and must be reauthorized at the end of that time in order to continue.


Block Grant: A financing mechanism that allocates funds based on a formula that uses statistical factors like population. Block grants limit the amount of federal spending in advance and do not require a state match, although states may need to demonstrate a maintenance of effort in providing funds. Funding for TANF is a block grant from the federal government to the states.


Caseload: The number of people enrolled in the TANF program in a state. States must follow specific guidelines to ensure that certain portions of their caseload meet specific requirements, such as engaging in work activities. The measure of a state’s success in the TANF program is currently acknowledged by caseload reduction, which incentivizes states to reduce caseloads without necessarily helping families to rise above poverty.


CCDBG: The Child Care and Development Block Grant. Under TANF, several different child care programs are combined with CCDBG.


DHHS: Department of Health and Human Services. The federal agency that oversees social service programs such as TANF and CCDBG.


Eligibility: In order to receive TANF funds, a family must have a dependant under the age of 18 living in the household, or under age 20 if the dependant is enrolled in secondary school. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or lawfully present residents for 5 years, and must demonstrate financial need, based on state criteria.


Emergency Assistance: EA provides assistance to families with children in order to cover emergency needs including homelessness, eviction or utility shut-off. Funding for EA is made part of the TANF block grant.


Emergency Fund (EF): Due to concerns over the difficulty states would encounter in administering TANF funds during a recession, the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund of $2 billion was developed in the 2005 reauthorization of TANF under the Deficit Reduction Act. The fund provides states with additional federal funds of up to 20% of their block grant amount if they indicate that they face a recession or trigger (rising unemployment or rising food stamps). In 2007, states started to qualify for and draw upon the Contingency Fund as the economy and state budgets started to decline.


Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF): An emergency fund established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, with the understanding that the TANF EF would not be sufficient to meet the financial need of the states. The TANF Emergency Fund provides 80% reimbursement to states for increases in TANF-related expenditures in specified areas, including subsidized employment. States must apply and demonstrate need in order to receive funds.


Entitlement: A program that legally obligates the federal government to make payments to any person who meets the legal criteria for eligibility. Examples include Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Under the TANF block grant, the federal entitlement for cash assistance that was provided under AFDC was eliminated.


Income Disregard: Used to describe when an individual becomes ineligible for TANF benefits due to an increase in income.


Legal Immigrants or Legal Non-Citizens: Individuals who are in the U.S. leally, but are not citizens. Most non-citizens are ineligible for SNAP and SSI for the first 5 years of residency in the US. Exceptions include some refugees and asylees, among others.


Means-tested Benefit: A public benefit (including cash, medical, housing and food assistance) of the federal government in which the eligibility of an individual or family, and the amount of benefits, are determined on the basis of income, resources or financial need. Federal means-tested benefits include TANF, SNAP, SSI, Medicaid, and SCHIP.


Medicaid: A federal-state cooperative medical care financing program for low-income disabled, children and families.


Medicare: A federal-state cooperative medical care financing program for eligible individuals over the age of 65.


MOE: A maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement is the amount of money that a state must spend or services it must provide to be eligible for a federal program and federal funds. States must demonstrate a MOE of TANF funds in order to receive the federal block grant, which is 80% of 1994 expenditures.


PWRORA: Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. The official name of the 1996 Welfare Reform law.


Reauthorization: The process by which Congress extends a program that was initially authorized for a limited time period. Changes to the program can be made in the reauthorization process. The TANF program was authorized for 5 years as part of the 1996 welfare reform law. It was reauthorized in 2005 under the Deficit Reduction Act, and is up for reauthorization again in 2010, although it is likely to be granted a temporary extension and undergo a more rigorous reauthorization in 2011.


Sanction: An individual or family that receives TANF benefits may have their benefits reduced or terminated if they do not comply with work requirements, fail to complete proper paperwork, miss attendance at a meeting, among a number of other activities. A lifetime ban or lifetime sanction indicates that an individual may never receive TANF benefits again.


SCHIP: State Children’s Insurance Program. A matching grant program created by Congress in 1997 to help states expand health insurance coverage to children from families with incomes that exceed Medicaid limits.


SNAP: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Formerly known as Food Stamps, SNAP is a federally funded program that provides vouchers to purchase food to people who meet income and assets guidelines. The program is administered by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).


SSBG: Social Services Block Grant, or Title XX, is a capped entitlement providing funding to states for a wide range of social services.


SSI: Supplemental Security Income. Provides cash assistance to eligible aged, blind and disabled persons.


TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Created in 1996 to replace AFDC. It provides block grants to states to assist needy families and stimulate employment.


Time Limit: The maximum amount of time that a family can receive TANF benefits. Federally, the time limit is 5 years of assistance, although states are allowed to alter their time limits. Many states have time limits shorter than 5 years, and many states grant extensions for specific cases.


Transitional Benefits: Usually used in reference to child care or Medicaid, transitional benefits provide continued support after cash assistance ends. For example, a family that leaves TANF for work continues to be eligible for Medicaid for a set period of time after leaving TANF.


Undocumented: Immigrants who have no evidence of contact with the INS either because they never filed an application for adjustment, asylum or other status, or because a status they used has expired (such as a tourist or student visa).


“Work First”/Welfare-to-Work Program: A federal grant to help states create job training and placement programs for TANF recipients. These funds are separate from TANF programs and are administered by the Department of Labor.


Work Requirement: States must enroll 50% of their TANF caseload in work activities, and 90% of two-parent families must be engaged in work activities. Single parents must work 30 hours per week, and single parents with children under age 6 must work for 20 hours per week. Two parent families must work 35 hours per week.


Work Activities: Specific activities that a family can do that will count towards their work requirement. These activities include, but are not limited to, subsidized or unsubsidized employment, job skills or vocational training, job search, and community service.