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One year after federal welfare reform: A description of state Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) decisions as of October 1997

Date Added to Library: 
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 11:19
Individual Author: 
Gallagher, L. Jerome
Gallagher, Megan
Perese, Kevin
Schreiber, Susan
Watson, Keith
Reference Type: 
Research Methodology: 
Place Published: 
Washington, DC
Published Date: 
May 1998
Published Date (Text): 
May 1998

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and giving states flexibility to create new cash assistance programs for families with children. While the federal legislation establishes a variety of minimum requirements in some areas, there is considerable flexibility for states to exceed these minimum requirements and a number of areas are open to state discretion.

This paper reviews some of the major decisions that states have made regarding the design of cash assistance programs under TANF, based on information available as of October 1997. This time period is appropriate because by October 1997 all state TANF plans had been approved and most states had enacted legislation in response to the new TANF block grant. Not all aspects of TANF programs are included in this review, however. State decisions concerning immunization requirements, treatment of interstate migrants, and teen parent school attendance requirements are among those not included in this paper. We focus on some of the major decisions regarding program eligibility and benefits, time limits, and work requirements.

The following section of the paper discusses the sources used for the descriptions of state programs. The remaining sections describe different aspects of state programs as follows:

  • Asset limits
  • Income eligibility limits
  • Diversion assistance payments
  • Eligibility of two-parent families
  • Definition of time limits
  • Exemptions from time limits
  • Extensions to time limits
  • Implementation dates of time limits
  • Work exemptions based on the age of youngest child
  • Work sanctions
  • Work requirement time limits
  • Benefit amounts
  • Earnings disregards
  • Family caps
  • Child support pass-through

For each of these sections we describe briefly how these provisions were applied under the former AFDC program and under waivers, the changes made by PRWORA, and the decisions that states have made concerning each provision. The final section describes the potential for county variation within states. (author introduction)

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