You are here

TANF Cash Benefits Have Fallen by More Than 20 Percent in Most States and Continue to Erode

UPDATED
October 15, 2015

Cash assistance benefits for the nation’s poorest families with children fell again in purchasing power in 2015 and are now at least 20 percent below their 1996 levels in 35 states and the District of Columbia, after adjusting for inflation.  Nine states and Washington, D.C. raised Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits between July 2014 (the start of fiscal year 2015 in most states) and July 2015; three others enacted legislation that raised benefit levels after July 2015.  The remaining 38 states did not adjust benefit levels, allowing inflation to continue to erode the benefits’ value.  (No state cut TANF benefits in nominal dollars in the past year.)  For 99 percent of TANF recipients nationally, the purchasing power of their benefits is below 1996 levels, after adjusting for inflation.  States should halt the erosion of TANF benefits and begin restoring the purchasing power lost over the past 19 years.

The erosion of TANF benefits since TANF’s creation in 1996 comes on top of even larger benefit declines over the preceding quarter-century.  Between 1970 and 1996, the value of cash assistance benefits for poor families with children fell by more than 40 percent in real terms in two-thirds of the states. 

As of July 1, 2015, every state’s TANF benefits for a family of three with no other cash income were below 50 percent of the poverty line, measured by the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) 2015 poverty guidelines.  Most states’ benefits were below 30 percent of the poverty line.  Benefits for a family of three with no other cash income were also below the Fair Market Rent (the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s estimate of the rent and utility costs of modest housing in a local area) for a two-bedroom apartment in every state; in 29 states and D.C., they covered less than half of the Fair Market Rent.  Even when benefits from SNAP (formerly food stamps) are added to TANF family grants, families with no other income remain below the poverty line in every state.

In addition, TANF provides a safety net to significantly fewer poor families than in the past:  in 2014, just 23 families received TANF benefits for every 100 poor families, down from 68 families receiving TANF for every 100 poor families in 1996.  Even more troubling, 12 states’ TANF programs reach only ten families or fewer for every 100 families with children in poverty.  For those families, TANF often is their only source of support; without it they would have no cash income to meet basic needs.

This paper, an annual update of state TANF benefit levels as of July 1, covers changes in TANF benefit levels between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015.  The benefit levels cited here reflect the monthly benefits for a family of three with no other income as of July 1, 2015.  The benefit levels cited here may exceed what many families actually receive because TANF benefits in six states (Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Virginia) vary by geographic region.[2]  Unless noted otherwise, this paper reports the benefit level in the state’s most populous region.

Nine States and D.C. Have Raised TANF Benefits Since 2014

TABLE 1
States That Have Raised TANF Benefits in Past Year (monthly benefit for a family of three)
  July 2015 Benefits Increase Since July 2014
California $704 $34
District of Columbia $434 $6
Maryland $636 $12
Montana $586 $76
North Dakota $486 $9
Ohio $473 $8
South Carolina $277 $3
Texas $281 $4
Washington $521 $43
Wyoming $652 $17

Note: TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Source: CBPP-compiled 2015 state benefits

 

Nine states and the District of Columbia raised TANF benefit levels between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015, increasing the median state benefit from $428 to $429.  (See Table 1 and Appendix Table 1.)  Most of these increases reflected default periodic adjustments to benefit levels, such as automatic cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs).

  • During and after the recent recession, California cut benefits twice (in 2009 and 2011) and repealed its COLA provision.  In recent years, the state has partially restored the cuts.  The latest increase this year, the result of legislative action in 2014, raised benefit levels by $34 to $704 for a family of three, though benefits remain below the July 2008 level in nominal dollars.  In future years, the state will increase benefit levels if funds in the state’s new Family Supplemental Support Account exceed the funding needed to pay benefit costs that year.

  • The District of Columbia raised benefit levels by $6 to $434 on October 2014 as part of a new COLA.  Benefit levels increased again this October to $441.

  • Maryland often adjusts benefits based on changes in the state’s “minimum living level,” a standard of need tied to living costs.  The state raised benefits by $12 to $636 for a family of three in October 2014.  Maryland did not increase benefits as of October 2015.[3]

  • Montana raised benefits by $76 to $586 in July 2015.  The state increased benefits to 35 percent of the federal poverty level.

  • North Dakota raised benefits by $9 to $486 in 2015 as the result of legislative action.

  • Ohio, which adjusts benefits annually in line with the Social Security COLA, raised benefits by $8 to $473 on January 2015.

  • South Carolina cut benefits by 20 percent in 2011, but has since fully restored the cut.  In October 2014, the state raised benefits by $3 to $277.  The benefit level is set at roughly 17 percent of the federal poverty level.[4] 

  • Texas raised benefits by $4 to $281 on October 2014.  The legislature generally adjusts benefit levels annually to maintain the maximum grant at 17 percent of the poverty line.  In October 2015, the benefit increased to $285.

  • Washington raised benefits $43 to $521 in July 2015, partially restoring a 15 percent cut in 2011.

  • Wyoming’s benefits have kept pace with inflation since the state implemented a COLA in 2009.  In July 2015, the benefit rose to $652.

A few other states adopted benefit increases to take effect in the second half of 2015 or in 2016.  Nebraska enacted legislation that took effect in September 2015 to raise benefits and tie benefit levels to 55 percent of the state’s “standard of need,” which adjusts biannually.  In August 2015, New Mexico raised benefits by 7.5 percent, partially restoring cuts from 2011.  Virginia enacted a 2.5 percent benefit increase to take effect in January 2016.

Benefits Leave Families Below Half of Poverty Line

TANF benefits leave family incomes below half of the poverty line in every state.[5]  (See Figure 1 and Appendix Table 2.)  In 1996, 16 states had benefit levels below 30 percent of the poverty line; today, 33 states and D.C. do.  In 16 of those states, benefit levels are below 20 percent of the poverty line — that is, below $335 a month for a family of three.  

Because TANF benefits have declined substantially in value, they do much less to help families escape “deep poverty” (family incomes below half of the poverty line) than in 1996.  A poor family relying solely on TANF to provide the basics for its children — such as during a period of joblessness, illness, or disability — is further below the poverty line today than in 1996 in every state except Maryland, Texas (which keeps benefits pegged at 17 percent of the poverty line), and Wyoming.  (See Figure 2 and Appendix Tables 2 and 3.)  In many states, the decline has been dramatic:

  • Since 1996, the value of benefits has fallen by 20 percent or more in 35 states and D.C., after adjusting for inflation. 

  • Seventeen states had the same nominal benefit levels in July 2015 as in 1996, meaning that benefits have fallen in inflation-adjusted terms by more than 30 percent.  

  • In six states (Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Washington), TANF benefits are below their nominal 1996 levels.  Benefits in Arizona and Hawaii are worth at least 40 percent less than in 1996, after inflation.

 

Figure 1
Maximum TANF Benefits Leave Families Well Below the Federal Poverty Line (FPL)

 

The decline in the value of TANF benefits since 1996 follows a quarter-century of major declines in the real value of benefits provided through TANF’s predecessor, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).  Between 1970 and 1996, AFDC benefit levels fell by more than 20 percent in every state but one and by more than 40 percent in two-thirds of the states, after adjusting for inflation.[6]

 

Figure 2
TANF Benefits in Most States Have Declined in Value Since 1996

 

Some families can combine TANF benefits with earned income to help meet basic needs; nearly all states have adopted “make work pay” policies under which TANF benefits phase out gradually as family earnings increase.  But such families still become ineligible for TANF cash assistance at very low income levels in nearly all states.  And, not all TANF families can supplement benefits with earnings; many families include parents who have significant disabilities or other barriers to work or cannot find jobs in a labor market that remains weak. 

Benefits Cover Only Fraction of Modest Housing Costs

TANF benefits cover only a fraction of a family’s housing costs, and housing is only one of a family’s basic needs (though one of the largest).  The monthly TANF benefit level for a family of three is now less than the estimated cost of a modest two-bedroom apartment (based on HUD Fair Market Rents) in all states, and less than half of the Fair Market Rent in 29 states and D.C.  (See Figure 3.)  Most TANF families receive no housing subsidies — in fact, only one in four families with children eligible for federal housing assistance (including both TANF and non-TANF families) receive it.[7]  Many states provide small additional funds to help families cover housing costs, but these often do not cover the large gap between TANF grants and local Fair Market Rents.

 

Figure 3
TANF Benefits Falling Further Behind Housing Costs

 

Between 2000 and 2015, the median Fair Market Rent nationally rose from $580 to $817, while the median TANF benefit rose from $379 to $429.  (These figures are in nominal dollars.)  Since TANF benefits have declined in real terms in most states, so has the share of housing costs they cover, as Figure 3 shows.  

The decline has been especially large in some states.  Vermont’s TANF benefit level, for example, equaled the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in 2000 but covered less than two-thirds of it by 2015.  (See Appendix Table 4.)

SNAP Benefits Help Fill Gap, But Substantial Shortfall Remains

Unlike TANF, SNAP has provided a strong safety net for many unemployed families and individuals during the economic downturn and slow recovery.  TANF and SNAP benefits together do a better job of pulling families out of deep poverty than TANF alone.  About 83 percent of TANF households consistently receive SNAP benefits.[8]  In 2013, the average monthly SNAP benefit for households with TANF income was $432.[9]  

Nevertheless, families receiving both SNAP and TANF benefits fall below 75 percent of the poverty line in every state except Alaska and New York, as Figure 4 shows. (In addition, to simplify the comparison, the SNAP benefit levels used for this comparison overstate the SNAP benefit that many TANF families actually receive.[10])

 

Figure 4
Even TANF and SNAP Benefits Combined Leave Families Far Below Poverty Level

 

After Years of Disinvestment and Erosion, It’s Time to Raise TANF Benefits

States spend only a quarter of federal and state TANF funds on basic assistance, down from 70 percent in 1997.  In the years immediately after the 1996 welfare law, large caseload declines allowed states to channel freed-up funds from cash benefits to welfare reform efforts like child care and welfare-to-work programs.  But funding in those areas has been flat or declined for over a decade.  Instead, states over time redirected a substantial portion of their TANF and maintenance-of-effort (MOE) funds to other purposes, in some cases to “supplant” (replace) existing state spending and thereby help close budget holes or to free up funds for purposes unrelated to low-income families or children.  Overall, states did not invest the funds freed up by falling cash assistance caseloads to maintain or strengthen the safety net that basic assistance provides to recipients.  This failure left the most disadvantaged families without much of a safety net.

As this paper shows, it is increasingly difficult for TANF recipients to meet basic needs, even when they also receive SNAP.  TANF recipients have a limited time on benefits and must participate in work or work-preparation activities (unless they qualify for a state exemption).  During this time-limited, work-focused window, TANF benefits need to do a better job of enabling families to meet basic needs so they can focus on finding work and/or increasing their skills in order to leave welfare.  The destitution that accompanies today’s low TANF benefit levels frequently creates instability that can interfere with these goals and undermine welfare reform.

Many of the states that raised benefit levels between July 2014 and July 2015 did so through annual or periodic adjustments that generally occur by default or automatically.  Such approaches are an effective strategy to protect TANF benefits from erosion due to inflation. With state fiscal conditions beginning to improve, this is a good time for state policymakers to consider several steps to provide more adequate levels of basic assistance. 

First, they should reinvest TANF and MOE funds back into TANF to provide a stronger safety net for poor families.  Second, as part of this reinvestment, states should restore at least some of the value of benefits that has been lost in recent years and the additional cuts made during the recession, even if that requires several incremental increases over a period of years.  Third, they should establish mechanisms to prevent benefits from eroding in the future.[11]  Adjusting TANF benefits yearly in step with inflation can maintain families’ purchasing power and help them meet basic needs — thereby improving the lives of parents and children receiving TANF while also helping local communities, as poor families quickly put that money into the local economy.

TANF Benefits Leave Families in or Near Extreme Poverty in Nine States

In their book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, researchers Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer document the rise of extreme poverty in America.  The authors define extreme poverty as household income of less than $2.00 per person per day, a World Bank measure for poverty in developing counties. Edin and Shaefer show that the drop in cash assistance receipt since welfare reform is one of the main drivers of the rise in extreme poverty.  Between 1996 and 2011, the number of households living in extreme poverty in a given month more than doubled, from 636,000 to 1.46 million.  Some 2.8 million children lived in those extremely poor households in 2011.

 

 

In the two states with the smallest TANF benefits, even families that manage to get on TANF (and have no other cash income) are extremely poor:

  • Mississippi’s monthly benefit of $170 for a family of three provides $1.83 per person per day in a 31-day month.
  • Tennessee’s monthly benefit of $185 for a family of three provides $1.99 per person per day in a 31-day month.

Families in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina don’t fare much better.  TANF benefits in these states amount to $2 to $3 a day per person.

A growing body of research highlights the importance of income — and the devastating impact of poverty — on children’s early development.*  TANF’s very low benefits thus should concern those who want to provide a better future for poor children.  Even modest increases in family income for young children in poor families can significantly improve their chances of succeeding in school — and may have a big impact in adulthood as well.

* Greg J. Duncan and Katherine Magnuson, “The Long Reach of Early Childhood Poverty,” Pathways, Winter 2011, https://web.stanford.edu/group/scspi/_media/pdf/pathways/winter_2011/PathwaysWinter11_Duncan.pdf and Nicole L. Hair et al., “Association of Child Poverty, Brain Development, and Academic Achievement,” JAMA Pediatrics, September 2015, http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2381542.

APPENDIX TABLE 1
TANF Benefit Levels as of July 2015 (Single-Parent Family of Three)
  July 1996 July 2000 July 2005 July 2011 July 2013 July 2014 July 2015 Change 1996-2015 (inflation-adjusted)
Alabama 164 164 215 215 215 215 215 -14.1%
Alaska 923 923 923 923 923 923 923 -34.5%
Arizona 347 347 347 278 278 278 278 -47.5%
Arkansas 204 204 204 204 204 204 204 -34.5%
California1 596 626 723 638 638 670 704 -22.6%
Colorado 356 356 356 462 462 462 462 -14.9%
Connecticut2 636 636 636 674 688 698 698 -28.1%
Delaware 338 338 338 338 338 338 338 -34.5%
D.C.3 415 379 379 428 428 428 434 -31.4%
Florida 303 303 303 303 303 303 303 -34.5%
Georgia 280 280 280 280 280 280 280 -34.5%
Hawaii4 712 570 570 610 610 610 610 -43.8%
Idaho 317 293 309 309 309 309 309 -36.1%
Illinois5 377 377 396 432 432 432 432 -24.9%
Indiana 288 288 288 288 288 288 288 -34.5%
Iowa 426 426 426 426 426 426 426 -34.5%
Kansas 429 429 429 429 429 429 429 -34.5%
Kentucky 262 262 262 262 262 262 262 -34.5%
Louisiana 190 190 240 240 240 240 240 -17.2%
Maine 418 461 485 485 485 485 485 -23.9%
Maryland6 373 417 482 574 576 624 636 11.8%
Massachusetts 565 565 618 618 618 618 618 -28.3%
Michigan 459 459 459 492 492 492 492 -29.7%
Minnesota 532 532 532 532 532 532 532 -34.5%
Mississippi 120 170 170 170 170 170 170 -7.1%
Missouri 292 292 292 292 292 292 292 -34.5%
Montana7 438 469 405 504 510 510 586 -12.3%
Nebraska8 364 364 364 364 364 364 364 -34.5%
Nevada 348 348 348 383 383 383 383 -27.9%
New Hampshire 550 575 625 675 675 675 675 -19.6%
New Jersey 424 424 424 424 424 424 424 -34.5%
New Mexico9 389 439 389 380 380 380 380 -36.0%
New York10 577 577 691 753 789 789 789 -10.4%
North Carolina 272 272 272 272 272 272 272 -34.5%
North Dakota11 431 457 477 477 477 477 486 -26.1%
Ohio12 341 373 373 434 458 465 473 -9.1%
Oklahoma 307 292 292 292 292 292 292 -37.7%
Oregon 460 460 460 506 506 506 506 -27.9%
Pennsylvania13 421 421 421 421 421 421 421 -34.5%
Rhode Island 554 554 554 554 554 554 554 -34.5%
South Carolina14 200 204 205 216 223 274 277 -9.2%
South Dakota15 430 430 501 555 565 599 599 -8.7%
Tennessee 185 185 185 185 185 185 185 -34.5%
Texas16 188 201 223 260 271 277 281 -2.0%
Utah 416 451 474 498 498 498 498 -21.5%
Vermont17 597 622 640 640 640 640 640 -29.7%
Virginia18 354 354 389 389 389 389 389 -28.0%
Washington 546 546 546 478 478 478 521 -37.5%
West Virginia 253 328 340 340 340 340 340 -11.9%
Wisconsin19 517 673 673 673 653 653 653 -17.2%
Wyoming20 360 340 340 577 616 635 652 18.7%

Note: TANF= Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

1 California benefits rose 5 percent in April 2015 as the result of legislative action.

2 Connecticut usually raises TANF benefit levels each July 1 based on the Social Security Administration’s COLA for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits. However, the state suspended its COLA for the next two fiscal years (FY16 and FY17) due to budget constraints. The figure listed here is for Region A, which covers the state’s highest-cost area.  Most families of three in Connecticut receive a maximum benefit of $576 a month.

3 D.C. increased benefits from $428 to $434 and established a COLA for future years in October 2014. The benefit increased to $441 in October 2015.

4 Hawaii has a smaller benefit for families that must participate in work activities and a higher benefit for families that are exempt. Benefits for a family of three are $610 and $763, respectively.

5 Illinois’ benefit levels vary by region. This is the benefit level for most of the state.  Benefits are lower in southern Illinois than in the central part of the state.

6 Maryland raised benefits on October 1, 2014. Each year the state calculates whether its TANF and SNAP benefits combined equal at least 61 percent of the state’s “minimum living level” and then adjusts TANF benefits as needed to meet this threshold.  Maryland did not increase the benefit as of October 1, 2015.

7 Montana has periodically adjusted benefits with increases in the federal poverty line. Effective July 1, 2015, benefits were increased to 35 percent of the 2015 poverty line.

8 Nebraska passed legislation that went into effect in September 2015 to increase benefits and peg benefit levels to 55 percent of the standard of need.

9 In August 2015, New Mexico increased benefits 7.5 percent by reducing a 15 percent cut made in 2011 to a 7.5 percent cut, effectively increasing benefits.

10 The listed benefit is for New York City. New York State’s benefit has several components, including a statewide monthly basic allowance (for recurring needs), a statewide home energy allowance, a statewide supplemental home energy allowance, and county-specific rental assistance, which varies from $259 to $447.

11 North Dakota’s benefit of $477 a month for a family of three includes a $50 special needs portion for families with shelter costs.

12 Ohio raises TANF benefit levels on January 1 based on the Social Security Administration’s COLA for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits.  Because there were no Social Security COLAs for 2010 and 2011, there were no TANF benefit increases in Ohio for those years.

13 Pennsylvania’s benefit levels vary by county.  The listed number is the highest, not the most typical, benefit level.

14 South Carolina raised benefits to $277 effective October 2014. In a 2011 benefit cut, South Carolina reduced the share of the federal poverty level to which benefits were maintained from about 18 percent to about 14 percent. As of July 2015, the benefit level is set at 33.73 percent of the Need Standard (50 percent of the federal poverty level).

15 South Dakota, which adjusts benefits periodically, did not raise benefits in 2015. It last raised benefits on June 30, 2014.

16 Texas, which adjusts benefits annually according to changes in the federal poverty level, implemented the increase shown here on October 1, 2014. On October 1, 2015 the benefit increased to $285.

17 Vermont has two regional benefit levels: a higher one for Chittenden County and a lower one for the rest of the state.  It also provides a housing supplement to many (but not all) TANF recipients.  Figures shown here use the benefit level for outside Chittenden County and do not include the housing supplement. CBPP collected the information for benefit levels for 2010-2012; benefit levels for prior years are from the Urban Institute Welfare Rules Database.  (In the 2008 version of this paper, CBPP followed the approach used in Congressional Research Service reports, which used the higher levels that apply for Chittenden County and include a housing supplement.)

18 In Virginia, TANF benefit amounts vary among three geographic areas.  A 2.5 percent increase in benefit levels passed by the legislature will begin in January 2016.

19 In Wisconsin, for some categories of W-2 recipients (caretakers of newborns and pregnant women with at-risk pregnancies and no other children in their care), benefits have remained at $673 since 2011.

20 Wyoming’s benefit level is tied to the state’s cost-of-living index for the previous year. Benefits adjust on July 1.

 

APPENDIX TABLE 2
TANF Benefit Levels as Percentage of Federal Poverty Level
  1996 2015
Alabama 15.2% 12.8%
Alaska 68.3% 44.1%
Arizona 32.1% 16.6%
Arkansas 18.9% 12.2%
California 55.1% 42.1%
Colorado 32.9% 27.6%
Connecticut 58.8% 41.7%
Delaware 31.2% 20.2%
D.C. 38.4% 25.9%
Florida 28.0% 18.1%
Georgia 25.9% 16.7%
Hawaii 57.2% 31.7%
Idaho 29.3% 18.5%
Illinois 34.9% 25.8%
Indiana 26.6% 17.2%
Iowa 39.4% 25.4%
Kansas 39.7% 25.6%
Kentucky 24.2% 15.6%
Louisiana 17.6% 14.3%
Maine 38.6% 29.0%
Maryland 34.5% 38.0%
Massachusetts 52.2% 36.9%
Michigan 42.4% 29.4%
Minnesota 49.2% 31.8%
Mississippi 11.1% 10.2%
Missouri 27.0% 17.4%
Montana 40.5% 35.0%
Nebraska 33.7% 21.7%
Nevada 32.2% 22.9%
New Hampshire 50.8% 40.3%
New Jersey 39.2% 25.3%
New Mexico 36.0% 22.7%
New York 53.3% 47.1%
North Carolina 25.1% 16.2%
North Dakota 39.8% 29.0%
Ohio 31.5% 28.3%
Oklahoma 28.4% 17.4%
Oregon 42.5% 30.2%
Pennsylvania 38.9% 25.1%
Rhode Island 51.2% 33.1%
South Carolina 18.5% 16.5%
South Dakota 39.8% 35.8%
Tennessee 17.1% 11.1%
Texas 17.4% 16.8%
Utah 38.5% 29.7%
Vermont 58.5% 38.2%
Virginia 32.7% 23.2%
Washington 50.5% 31.1%
West Virginia 23.4% 20.3%
Wisconsin 47.8% 39.0%
Wyoming 33.3% 38.9%

Note: TANF= Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Source: 2015 Health and Human Services poverty guidelines for a family of three at http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/15poverty.cfm. TANF benefit levels for a single-parent family of three were compiled by CBPP from various sources and are current as of July 1, 2015

 

APPENDIX TABLE 3
Changes in Real (Inflation-Adjusted) TANF Benefits
Comparing 2015 Levels with Levels in 1996, 2000, 2005, and 2014
  1996-2015 2000-2015 2005-2015 2014-2015
Alabama -14.1% -6.2% -18.9% -1.1%
Alaska -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Arizona -47.5% -42.7% -35.0% -1.1%
Arkansas -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
California -22.6% -19.5% -21.1% 3.9%
Colorado -14.9% -7.1% 5.2% -1.1%
Connecticut -28.1% -21.5% -11.0% -1.1%
Delaware -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
D.C. -31.4% -18.0% -7.2% 0.3%
Florida -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Georgia -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Hawaii -43.8% -23.4% -13.2% -1.1%
Idaho -36.1% -24.5% -18.9% -1.1%
Illinois -24.9% -18.0% -11.6% -1.1%
Indiana -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Iowa -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Kansas -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Kentucky -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Louisiana -17.2% -9.6% -18.9% -1.1%
Maine -23.9% -24.7% -18.9% -1.1%
Maryland 11.8% 9.2% 7.0% 0.8%
Massachusetts -28.3% -21.7% -18.9% -1.1%
Michigan -29.7% -23.3% -13.1% -1.1%
Minnesota -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Mississippi -7.1% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Missouri -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Montana -12.3% -10.6% 17.3% 13.7%
Nebraska -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Nevada -27.9% -21.2% -10.8% -1.1%
New Hampshire -19.6% -16.0% -12.4% -1.1%
New Jersey -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
New Mexico -36.0% -38.1% -20.8% -1.1%
New York -10.4% -2.1% -7.4% -1.1%
North Carolina -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
North Dakota -26.1% -23.9% -17.4% 0.8%
Ohio -9.1% -9.2% 2.8% 0.6%
Oklahoma -37.7% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Oregon -27.9% -21.3% -10.8% -1.1%
Pennsylvania -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Rhode Island -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
South Carolina -9.2% -2.8% 9.6% 0.0%
South Dakota -8.7% -0.3% -3.1% -1.1%
Tennessee -34.5% -28.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Texas -2.0% 0.1% 2.2% 0.4%
Utah -21.5% -21.0% -14.8% -1.1%
Vermont -29.7% -26.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Virginia -28.0% -21.4% -18.9% -1.1%
Washington -37.5% -31.7% -22.6% 7.8%
West Virginia -11.9% -25.8% -18.9% -1.1%
Wisconsin -17.2% -30.6% -21.3% -1.1%
Wyoming 18.7% 37.2% 55.5% 1.6%

Note: TANF= Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Source: Calculated from figures in Appendix Table 1 adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index (CPI)

 

APPENDIX TABLE 4
TANF Benefit Levels as Percentage of Fair Market Rents
  2000 2015
Alabama 36.6% 30.3%
Alaska 117.0% 78.7%
Arizona 55.8% 31.7%
Arkansas 47.4% 30.3%
California 79.1% 50.8%
Colorado 55.5% 44.7%
Connecticut 78.0% 55.3%
Delaware 51.4% 30.8%
D.C. 43.9% 29.8%
Florida 47.8% 29.9%
Georgia 48.4% 34.3%
Hawaii 66.4% 37.1%
Idaho 60.9% 43.8%
Illinois 56.7% 44.2%
Indiana 54.1% 38.7%
Iowa 90.1% 60.9%
Kansas 88.8% 56.7%
Kentucky 58.2% 38.4%
Louisiana 40.5% 29.8%
Maine 81.9% 55.8%
Maryland 59.7% 49.6%
Massachusetts 66.2% 48.2%
Michigan 77.9% 62.4%
Minnesota 88.5% 59.5%
Mississippi 40.0% 23.9%
Missouri 62.3% 38.7%
Montana 95.5% 80.9%
Nebraska 73.2% 50.8%
Nevada 50.0% 40.4%
New Hampshire 78.1% 63.3%
New Jersey 48.3% 32.4%
New Mexico 84.1% 49.2%
New York 69.2% 59.1%
North Carolina 51.5% 35.6%
North Dakota 97.9% 64.9%
Ohio 69.7% 64.4%
Oklahoma 65.2% 40.8%
Oregon 75.8% 58.6%
Pennsylvania 72.0% 46.1%
Rhode Island 86.8% 57.6%
South Carolina 41.1% 36.5%
South Dakota 86.9% 85.8%
Tennessee 37.1% 24.7%
Texas 34.7% 32.5%
Utah 74.2% 61.3%
Vermont 100.5% 59.5%
Virginia 56.5% 35.5%
Washington 83.2% 46.2%
West Virginia 77.7% 49.5%
Wisconsin 122.1% 80.9%
Wyoming 69.4% 83.7%

Note: TANF= Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Fair Market Rent= Department of Housing and Urban Development’s estimate of rent and utility costs for modest housing unit in local area.

Source: Out of Reach 2015, National Low-income Housing Coalition http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/OOR_2015_FULL.pdf. NLIHC creates weighted statewide average Fair Market Rents for various-sized apartments based on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Market Rents for various sub-regions in the state. The numbers here are for a two-bedroom apartment. TANF benefit levels for single-parent families of three were compiled by CBPP from various state sources and are current as of July 1, 2015.

 

APPENDIX TABLE 5
2015 TANF and SNAP Benefit Levels as Percentage of Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
  TANF as Percent of FPL SNAP + TANF as Percent of FPL
Alabama 12.8% 43.4%
Alaska 44.1% 77.5%
Arizona 16.6% 47.1%
Arkansas 12.2% 42.7%
California 42.1% 71.3%
Colorado 27.6% 58.1%
Connecticut 41.7% 71.3%
Delaware 20.2% 50.7%
D.C. 25.9% 54.1%
Florida 18.1% 48.6%
Georgia 16.7% 47.2%
Hawaii 31.7% 71.4%
Idaho 18.5% 49.0%
Illinois 25.8% 55.5%
Indiana 17.2% 47.7%
Iowa 25.4% 56.0%
Kansas 25.6% 56.1%
Kentucky 15.6% 46.2%
Louisiana 14.3% 44.9%
Maine 29.0% 59.5%
Maryland 38.0% 65.5%
Massachusetts 36.9% 67.4%
Michigan 29.4% 59.9%
Minnesota 31.8% 55.8%
Mississippi 10.2% 40.7%
Missouri 17.4% 48.0%
Montana 35.0% 65.3%
Nebraska 21.7% 52.3%
Nevada 22.9% 53.4%
New Hampshire 40.3% 70.3%
New Jersey 25.3% 55.8%
New Mexico 22.7% 53.2%
New York 47.1% 75.0%
North Carolina 16.2% 46.8%
North Dakota 29.0% 59.6%
Ohio 28.3% 58.8%
Oklahoma 17.4% 48.0%
Oregon 30.2% 60.7%
Pennsylvania 25.1% 55.7%
Rhode Island 33.1% 63.6%
South Carolina 16.5% 47.1%
South Dakota 35.8% 66.3%
Tennessee 11.1% 41.6%
Texas 16.8% 47.3%
Utah 29.7% 58.9%
Vermont 38.2% 68.8%
Virginia 23.2% 53.8%
Washington 31.1% 61.6%
West Virginia 20.3% 50.8%
Wisconsin 39.0% 69.3%
Wyoming 38.9% 64.5%
   

Note: TANF= Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Source: 2015 Health and Human Services poverty guidelines for a family of three at http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/15poverty.cfm. TANF benefit levels for a single-parent family of three were compiled by CBPP from various sources and are current as of July 1, 2015.  Estimated SNAP benefits were calculated by CBPP in accordance with USDA Food and Nutrition Service policies using the circumstances of a family of three with a full TANF grant (and no other income) and with median shelter costs for families with income below 80 percent of the federal poverty level. 

End Notes

[1] Katie Eddins contributed to this report.

[2] See Appendix Table 1 for states with regional variation in TANF benefits.

[3] Maryland reconsiders its TANF benefit each year under a state law that requires SNAP and TANF benefits combined to equal at least 61 percent of the minimum living level.  If the combined benefits do not meet the 61 percent threshold, the state will increase the TANF benefit.

[4] South Carolina’s benefit level is indirectly tied to the federal poverty level.  The benefit is a share (currently 33.7 percent) of the state’s Need Standard, and the Need Standard is 50 percent of the federal poverty level.  The state can change the benefit level by adjusting its percentage of the Need Standard or by adjusting the Need Standard’s percentage of the poverty level.

[5] The 2015 poverty guideline from the Department of Health and Human Services for a family of three is about $1,674 per month in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C.; Alaska and Hawaii have higher guidelines.  (See http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/15poverty.cfm.)  CBPP uses HHS’ poverty guidelines in this analysis because they are a simplification of the poverty thresholds (the Census Bureau’s measure of poverty) and are used to determine financial eligibility for certain programs.

[6]1996 Green Book, House Ways and Means Committee, Table 8-15, http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=104_green_book&docid=f:wm014_08.pdf.

[7] Barbara Sard and Will Fisher, “Chart Book: Federal Housing Spending Is Poorly Matched to Need,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, December 18, 2013, http://www.cbpp.org/research/chart-book-federal-housing-spending-is-poorly-matched-to-need#Three.

[8]Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Tenth Annual Report to Congress, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Family Assistance, December 2013, http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ofa/10th_tanf_report_congress.pdf.

[9]Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2013, Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, December 2014, http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/ops/Characteristics2013.pdf

[10] In calculating typical SNAP benefits, this analysis assumed that a family’s shelter costs are the same as the median shelter costs for families with incomes at or below 80 percent of the poverty line.  A family’s SNAP benefit is based on its income and deductions, with the capped deduction for high shelter costs playing a significant role.  For two-thirds of the states, the estimated SNAP benefit used in Figure 4 is the maximum monthly benefit for a family of three ($511).  The SNAP benefit that an individual TANF family actually qualifies for, based on its particular circumstances, is often lower, however, because many TANF households do not incur shelter expenses high enough to qualify them for the maximum SNAP benefit.

[11] See “State Cost-of-Living Adjustments for TANF Benefits” box in Ife Finch and Liz Schott, “The Value of TANF Cash Benefits Continued to Erode in 2012,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 28, 2013, http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3943