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Federal Policy > Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), enacted in 1996, created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, which overhauled public assistance for low-income families. TANF replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the Jobs Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS), and the Emergency Assistance (EA) Programs.

Central to the TANF program is a focus on work participation rates. States are required to meet two separate work participation rates: 50 percent of all adults receiving TANF, and 90 percent of all two-parent families, must have an adult engaged in one of twelve work activities, including education and job training. However, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 restricted the types of qualifying work activities, making it that much more difficult for TANF participants to receive education and training services and supports.

TANF is overdue for reauthorization. As Congress considers reauthorizing the TANF program, expanding education and training opportunities for low-income Americans should be a priority. Most TANF recipients are in the labor market already, though they often move in and out of employment and typically work for very low wages. Expanding access to education and skills training will allow TANF recipients moving off of  welfare to secure good jobs that help them support their families, while also meeting the needs of local employers.

This page contains resources, analysis and news on TANF, as well as policy recommendations as Congress considers reauthorizing TANF.

Highlighted Resources  

Current Law