The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was created in 1996 from what was previously named the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. The TANF program is intended to serve low-income families, primarily those with only a single parent present, as did the AFDC program. The TANF program is distinguished from AFDC by strong work requirements, time limits on receipt, options for the provision of noncash assistance, and by a block grant financing structure. This
... per reviews the rules of the TANF program and the research that has been conducted on it and on the AFDC program. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was created by legislation passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by the President in 1996. The Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) created the TANF program out of the preexisting Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which itself was created by Congress in 1935 as part of the Social Security Act. The PRWORA legislation represented the most fundamental restructuring of the AFDC program since its inception. The most important restructured elements are (1) the devolution of major program design elements, and financing through block grants, to the individual states; (2) the imposition of strict work requirements in order to qualify for federal aid; and (3) lifetime limits on the number of years of benefit receipt which could be paid out of federal funds. This paper reviews the rules and structure of the TANF program and compares them with the historical AFDC program. In addition, it reviews the caseloads, costs, and participation rates of the TANF and AFDC programs. Finally, it reviews the research that has been conducted on both programs. Given the relative youth of the former, relatively little scholarly research has been conducted on it to date. Consequently, the bulk of the research will be reviewed for the AFDC program. Some discussion will also be provided of the extent to which the results of the AFDC research can be expected to apply to the TANF program. The first section reviews the rules and history of the programs. The second section reviews the trends in caseloads and expenditures and other program characteristics, followed by a section on the research results. A final section discusses reforms of the financial incentives in the program.