Welfare Reform/TANF

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

Cash assistance benefits for the nation’s poorest families with children fell again in purchasing power in 2014 and are now at least 20 percent below their 1996 levels in 38 states, after adjusting for inflation.

TANF benefits leave family incomes below half of the poverty line in every state.



TANF Research Funds Promote More Effective Human Service Programs and Should Be Restored

The 1996 welfare law provides $15 million each year for research and demonstration projects to expand our knowledge of effective ways to improve employment and earnings among TANF recipients and other poor families. This modest but stable funding source has helped states, localities, and welfare-to-work programs design more effective programs. Unfortunately, it is in jeopardy.


Chart Book: TANF at 18

Eighteen years ago, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant was created as a part of the 1996 welfare reform law to replace the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.

This chart book illustrates facts about TANF’s 18 years of history.




The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant provides federal funds to states for income assistance programs for poor families with children, welfare-to-work efforts, work supports such as child care, and other social services for low-income families.  Roughly 4 million Americans receive TANF-funded assistance.

Policy Basics:
An Introduction to TANF

Featured Experts

  1. LaDonna Pavetti Ph.D.

    LaDonna Pavetti Ph.D.

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  2. Liz Schott

    Liz Schott

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  3. Arloc Sherman

    Arloc Sherman

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The Center conducts research and analysis on federal TANF issues as well as state policy choices and implementation issues.  We also provide technical assistance to state policymakers and policy analysts to help states design their TANF programs to reach more eligible families and meet families’ particular needs.

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