Federal Income Guidelines for TANF

The federal government designed Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to get family wage earners back to work. TANF funding comes from a federal block grant created in 1996 that eliminated Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and developed this new program. The federal government renewed TANF in 2006, and some of the state guidelines were tightened, encouraging states to increase the work requirements.

States Have Responsibility

States must operate TANF following the federal guidelines or risk losing federal funds. Part of the state’s caseload must meet federal work requirements. The regulations require enforcement of the lifetime benefit of 60 months or less. States can choose to extend the limit in some circumstances or with state funds alone. Federal work guidelines require employment at least 30 hours a week for half of the caseload or 20 hours a week for single parents.

Income Calculations for TANF

The previous 12 months of income determines eligibility for TANF funds. Adjusted gross income is at the center of the calculations. For example, income counted in Minnesota includes wages, Social Security, public assistance, self-employment, net rental, dividends and interest, trust and estate income and regular contributions from someone not living in the household. Items not counted are federal grant programs, school lunch and in-kind housing or benefits not in the form of cash.

Federal Poverty Guidelines

Federal poverty guidelines govern most low-income federal programs, including TANF. States can apply the federal guidelines in the percentage they choose. Guidelines at 100 percent of federal poverty calculations for 48 states show $14,570 for a family of two, $18,310 for a family of three, $22,050 for a family of four and $25,790 for a family of five in 2010. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, one-third of the states have a limit set at less than 50 percent of federal poverty level, while other states allow more than 100 percent. Minnesota, for example, uses 200 percent of the federal poverty figures as the guideline.

Federal Guidelines and Supplemental Programs

TANF recipients can receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds, which provides funding for the purchase of food. The states operate this program with federal funding. Because states have the responsibility of developing these programs with federal funding and guidelines, each state has rules and regulations developed over time to meet state's needs. States are trending to moving TANF qualifiers to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) federal program. The Social Security Administration operates SSI and provides monetary assistance to disabled, elderly and children who qualify with low income and resources.