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More States Raising TANF Benefits to Boost Families’ Economic Security

UPDATED
December 9, 2019

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the primary cash assistance program for families living in poverty, can play a key role in ensuring that families struggling to make ends meet have sufficient income for rent and other basic expenses such as food, clothes, transportation, and personal care products. Studies show that income matters: financial stability gives children a better chance of growing up healthy and with the opportunity to thrive. Recognizing the importance of income for children’s long-term growth and development — and the inadequacy of their existing TANF benefits — a number of states have chosen to raise their TANF grants to families in the past few years. Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia have done so since July 2018.

"States need to do much more for TANF to fulfill its core purpose of helping families that struggle to meet basic needs."

Yet states need to do much more for TANF to fulfill its core purpose of helping families that struggle to meet basic needs. Until recently, most states were going in the wrong direction; many still are. In 33 states, benefit levels have declined by at least 20 percent in inflation-adjusted value since TANF’s enactment in 1996. In every state, benefits are at or below 60 percent of the poverty line and fail to cover rent for a modest two-bedroom apartment. Also, while TANF is designed to help all families that are struggling, state decisions can exacerbate racial disparities: Black children are likelier to live in the states with the lowest benefit levels, even though Black families face some of the greatest hurdles to economic security.

States can provide more stability to families by raising benefit levels, at a minimum to recover their lost purchasing power since TANF’s creation, and by implementing mechanisms to preserve the benefits’ value over time. Boosting families’ incomes not only helps them meet their basic needs in the short term, but also builds well-being from childhood through adulthood, including improved academic, health, and long-term economic outcomes for children.[1] All states, particularly those with the lowest benefit levels, should go further in increasing cash assistance for children and their parents to increase the likelihood that future generations will experience economic stability.

This report, an annual update of state TANF benefit levels as of July 1, covers benefit changes that took effect between July 1, 2018, and July 1, 2019. The benefit levels cited here reflect the maximum monthly benefit for a family of three with no other income as of July 1, 2019; they may exceed what many families actually receive because families often do not receive the maximum TANF benefit. Family grants in six states (California, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Virginia) vary by geographic region. Unless noted otherwise, this paper reports the benefit level in the state’s most populous region.

One-Third of States Raised Benefits for 2019 or 2020

Fourteen states plus the District of Columbia raised TANF benefit levels between July 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019 (see Table 1). Four states made legislative or administrative changes to increase benefits later in 2019 or in 2020. Though most increases were very small, the median state benefit increased from $450 to $486. Some of the increases represent historic changes for the state’s TANF program; in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, and Tennessee, for example, they were the first in roughly a decade or more. This positive trend started in 2013, the first year after the economic downturn in which no state cut benefit levels. Since then 22 states and D.C. have increased benefits one or more times.

Benefit Increases Taking Effect Through July 1, 2019

Six states plus the District of Columbia took specific legislative or administrative actions to increase grants by July 1, 2019. California’s increase, from $714 to $785 in April 2019, was the first in a multi-step process to move the grant to at least half of the poverty line.

TABLE 1
States Raising TANF Benefits in Past Year (Monthly benefit for family of three)
  July 2019 Benefit Increase Since July 2018 Increase Due to an Annual or Periodic Adjustment
New Jersey $559 $93  
Tennessee $277 $92  
Illinois $520 $88  
California $785 $71  
District of Columbia $642 $66  
Colorado $508 $46  
Maryland $709 $32 X
New Hampshire $1,066 $27 X
Virginia $442 $23  
Wyoming $697 $22 X
Nebraska $468 $18 X
Ohio $497 $14 X
Maine $594 $12 X
South Carolina $292 $6 X
Texas $295 $5 X

Note: TANF = Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Source: CBPP-compiled 2019 state benefit levels

Three of these states increased benefits for the first time in years. Colorado raised benefits from $462 to about $508 in September 2018, the first increase since 2009. Illinois raised benefits from $432 to $520 in October 2018, the first increase since 2008.[2] Tennessee raised benefits from $185 to $277 in December 2018, the first increase since before TANF’s creation.

Eight states raised benefits as the result of annual or periodic adjustments to reflect changes in living costs or the federal poverty line. For example, Maine raised benefits from $582 to $594 in October 2018 based on Social Security’s inflation adjustment. The New Hampshire benefit, tied to 60 percent of the poverty line, increased from $1,039 to $1,066 in March 2019. The Wyoming benefit, which keeps pace with inflation through the state’s cost-of-living index,[3] increased from $675 to $697 in July 2019.

Benefit Increases Taking Effect After July 1, 2019

Four states scheduled increases to take effect after July 1, 2019. California increased benefits to about 48 percent of the federal poverty level, raising benefits from $785 to $853 effective October 2019.

Illinois tied its benefit to 30 percent of the federal poverty level beginning in October 2019. Minnesota will increase its benefit by $100 per month per household beginning in February 2020, the first increase in over 30 years. Vermont raised benefits by about 10 percent in August 2019, to $699 for most of the state. [4]

Benefits Remain Far Below Poverty Line

Despite these increases, TANF benefits still leave family incomes at or below 60 percent of the poverty line in every state.[5] (See Figure 1 and Appendix Table 2.) In 1996, 16 states had benefit levels at or below 30 percent of the poverty line; today, 32 states do. In 18 of those states, benefit levels are at or below 20 percent of the poverty line — that is, $356 a month or less.

While Black children and white children are equally likely to live in a state that increased benefit levels in the past year, Black children are still likelier than white children to live in the states with the lowest benefit levels. (See Appendix Table 7a.) Over half (55 percent) of Black children live in a state with benefits at or below 20 percent of the poverty line, compared to 40 percent of white children.[6] Many of these states had some of the lowest benefits under TANF’s predecessor, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), and have failed to make much progress since then.[7] Among the states with the lowest benefits and the largest Black child populations:

  • Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina have not increased benefits since before the start of TANF;
  • Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi have not raised benefits in more than a decade; and
  • Texas and South Carolina increase their benefit nearly every year but only to keep it at about 17 percent of the poverty line.
Figure 1
Maximum TANF Benefits Leave Families Well Below Federal Poverty Line

TANF benefits have fallen substantially in value, they do much less to help families escape “deep poverty” (family incomes below half of the poverty line) than in 1996. In all but three states, a poor family relying solely on TANF to provide the basics for its children — such as during a period of joblessness, illness, or disability — has less purchasing power with its benefits today than it did in 1996. (See Figure 2 and Appendix Tables 2 and 3.) In many states, the decline has been dramatic:

  • Since 1996, benefits have fallen by 20 percent or more in 33 states, after adjusting for inflation.
  • Fourteen states had the same nominal benefit levels in July 2019 as in 1996, meaning that benefits have fallen in inflation-adjusted terms by 39 percent.
  • In four states (Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, and Oklahoma), TANF benefits are below their nominal 1996 levels. After adjusting for inflation, benefits in Arizona, Hawaii, and Oklahoma have fallen by 40 percent or more from their 1996 levels.
Figure 2
TANF Benefits in Most States Have Declined in Inflation-Adjusted Terms Since 1996

The decline in TANF benefits since 1996 follows a quarter-century of major declines in the real value of benefits provided through AFDC. Between 1970 and 1996, AFDC benefits 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.[8]

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.

Benefits Cover Only Fraction of Modest Housing Costs

"Only about 17 percent of TANF families receive HUD housing assistance."

While TANF benefit levels have risen slightly, the cost of housing in most areas also continues to rise, substantially in some areas. The monthly TANF benefit for a family of three is well below the estimated cost of a modest two-bedroom apartment and utilities[9] (based on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s [HUD] Fair Market Rents) in every state. It is less than half of the Fair Market Rent in 30 states plus D.C., compared with only eight states in 1996. Between 1996 and 2019, the median Fair Market Rent nationally rose from $543 to $958, while the median TANF benefit only rose from $377 to $486.[10] (These figures are in nominal dollars.) In all but two states, TANF benefits covered a smaller share of housing costs in 2019 than in 1996. (See Figure 3.)

TANF benefits cover an especially small share of housing costs in states where Black children are likelier to live. (See Appendix Table 7a.) This includes states where the cost of living is relatively low. Almost half (46 percent) of Black children live in states with benefits that cover less than one-third of the housing costs for a modest two-bedroom apartment, compared to 27 percent of white children.

Only about 17 percent of TANF families receive HUD housing assistance.[11] Some states provide small additional funds to help families cover housing costs, but these rarely cover the large gap between TANF grants and Fair Market Rents.

Housing is only one essential need that TANF families need cash income to cover. They have to buy food since SNAP benefits often do not last the entire month. Parents must buy clothes and shoes on a regular basis for growing children. Families also need cash to pay for transportation, telephone service, laundromats, toiletries, diapers and other baby supplies, school and work-related expenses, household cleaning supplies, health expenses not covered by Medicaid, and other miscellaneous costs. Because decent housing can prove expensive, TANF families without housing assistance often live with families and friends, contributing what they can to rent and utilities, or opt for more affordable but substandard housing. As a result, they have high rates of housing instability, resulting in frequent involuntary moves, eviction, or homelessness.[12] Such instability can harm both adults and children and is associated with poor school performance, poor cognitive development, increased health risks, and mental health problems.[13]

Figure 3
TANF Benefits Falling Further Behind Housing Costs

SNAP Benefits Help, But Large Shortfall Remains

TANF and SNAP benefits together do a better job of pulling families out of deep poverty than TANF alone. About 82 percent of TANF households consistently receive SNAP benefits.[14] In fiscal year 2017, the average monthly SNAP benefit for households with TANF income was $397.[15] Nevertheless, families receiving both SNAP and TANF benefits still fall below 75 percent of the poverty line in every state except one, as Figure 4 shows.

Because TANF benefits are so low in states where many Black children live, 55 percent of Black children live in states where TANF plus SNAP benefits are still below 50 percent of the poverty line, compared to 40 percent of white children. (See Appendix 7b.) (To simplify the comparison, CBPP’s calculation for the SNAP benefit uses reasonable assumptions for TANF families’ shelter costs and non-TANF income, which yield greater SNAP benefits than the average TANF family likely receives.[16])

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

Child Development Research Highlights Potential Gains From Raising TANF Benefits

"Income support programs can improve children’s academic, health, and economic outcomes."

Income supports like TANF during early childhood can improve the lives of children living in poverty, researchers generally agree. Raising the incomes of families in poverty relieves the stress caused by a scarcity of resources, which research has linked to lasting negative consequences for children’s brain development and physical health.[17] Income support programs can improve children’s academic, health, and economic outcomes, the National Academies of Sciences’ report on reducing childhood poverty finds.[18] Even relatively small infusions of cash, like those from TANF, can make a difference.[19]

Unfortunately, TANF does not do enough to stabilize families in poverty. The block grant to states is fixed and has lost nearly 40 percent of its inflation-adjusted value since 1996. In addition, states spend only about 20 percent of federal and state TANF funds on basic assistance, down from 40 percent in 2000. In the years immediately after the 1996 law created TANF, large caseload declines allowed states to channel freed-up funds from TANF benefits to child care and work programs. But states over time redirected a substantial portion of their federal TANF and state 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.

Nor did states invest the funds freed up by caseload declines to maintain their direct financial assistance programs. This failure left the most disadvantaged families without the support they need to make ends meet. As this paper shows, it is increasingly difficult for TANF recipients to meet basic needs. In particular, TANF families often find themselves in poor housing conditions with few resources to pay for even a modest apartment. And because Black children are likelier to live in the states with the lowest TANF benefits, a Black child in poverty has access to fewer resources than a white child in poverty on a national basis, which puts poor Black children at greater risk of negative outcomes.

States in general need to improve the adequacy of TANF benefit levels. States with the lowest benefits, in particular, need to do more to ensure that all families in poverty have access to more cash to help them meet their basic needs. Many of the states that raised benefits in the past year did so through annual or periodic adjustments that generally occur by default or automatically. Such an approach — when combined with an initial benefit increase to recover lost purchasing power due to inflation — can be an effective way to protect benefits from erosion due to inflation. With many state TANF caseloads reaching their lowest levels ever, state policymakers can use the resulting savings to provide more adequate levels of basic assistance:

  • States should reinvest TANF and MOE funds back into basic assistance or other areas to meet families’ basic needs, starting with providing higher cash grants for participating families. As part of this reinvestment, states should, at a minimum, restore the full value of benefits that has been lost since 1996 and any additional cuts made during the Great Recession, even if that requires several incremental increases over a period of years.
  • States should establish mechanisms to prevent benefits from eroding in the future.[20] Adjusting TANF benefits yearly in step with inflation can maintain families’ purchasing power and help them meet basic needs. This not only improves the lives of parents and children receiving TANF, but also helps local communities, as poor families quickly put that money into the local economy.
  • States should direct any remaining funds toward services and activities that support families that either receive or qualify for assistance.

APPENDIX TABLE 1
Monthly TANF Benefit Levels*
(Single-parent family of three)
  July 1996 July 2000 July 2005 July 2010 July 2017 July 2018 July 2019 Change 1996-2019 (inflation-adjusted dollars)
Alabama $164 $164 $215 $215 $215 $215 $215 -20%
Alaska 923 923 923 923 923 923 923 -39%
Arizona 347 347 347 278 278 278 278 -51%
Arkansas 204 204 204 204 204 204 204 -39%
California1 596 626 723 694 714 714 785 -19%
Colorado2 356 356 356 462 462 462 508 -13%
Connecticut3 636 636 636 674 698 698 698 -33%
Delaware 338 338 338 416 338 338 338 -39%
D.C.4 415 379 379 428 508 576 642 -5%
Florida 303 303 303 303 303 303 303 -39%
Georgia 280 280 280 280 280 280 280 -39%
Hawaii5 712 570 570 610 610 610 610 -48%
Idaho 317 293 309 309 309 309 309 -40%
Illinois6 377 377 396 432 432 432 520 -15%
Indiana 288 288 288 288 288 288 288 -39%
Iowa 426 426 426 426 426 426 426 -39%
Kansas 429 429 429 429 429 429 429 -39%
Kentucky 262 262 262 262 262 262 262 -39%
Louisiana7 190 190 240 240 240 240 240 -23%
Maine8 418 461 485 485 485 582 594 -13%
Maryland9 373 417 482 574 648 677 709 16%
Massachusetts10 565 565 618 618 618 633 633 -31%
Michigan 459 459 459 492 492 492 492 -34%
Minnesota11 532 532 532 532 532 532 532 -39%
Mississippi 120 170 170 170 170 170 170 -13%
Missouri 292 292 292 292 292 292 292 -39%
Montana12 438 469 405 504 588 588 588 -18%
Nebraska13 364 364 364 364 450 450 468 -21%
Nevada 348 348 348 383 383 386 386 -32%
New Hampshire14 550 575 625 675 1021 1039 1066 19%
New Jersey 15 424 424 424 424 424 466 559 -19%
New Mexico 389 439 389 447 409 447 447 -30%
New York16 577 577 691 753 789 789 789 -16%
North Carolina 272 272 272 272 272 272 272 -39%
North Dakota17 431 457 477 477 486 486 486 -31%
Ohio18 341 373 373 434 474 483 497 -11%
Oklahoma 307 292 292 292 292 292 292 -42%
Oregon 460 460 460 485 506 506 506 -33%
Pennsylvania19 421 421 421 421 421 421 421 -39%
Rhode Island 554 554 554 554 554 554 554 -39%
South Carolina20 200 204 205 270 283 286 292 -11%
South Dakota 430 430 501 555 615 615 615 -12%
Tennessee21 185 185 185 185 185 185 277 -8%
Texas22 188 201 223 260 286 290 295 -4%
Utah 416 451 474 498 498 498 498 -27%
Vermont23 597 622 640 640 640 640 640 -34%
Virginia24 354 354 389 389 419 419 442 -23%
Washington 546 546 546 562 521 569 569 -36%
West Virginia 253 328 340 340 340 340 340 -18%
Wisconsin25 517 673 673 673 653 653 653 -23%
Wyoming26 360 340 340 561 660 675 697 19%

*Benefit levels are listed in nominal dollars.

1 California has two regional benefits. The benefit listed here represents Region 1, which includes the most populous counties. California lawmakers passed legislation in 2018 to increase the benefit in multiple phases, eventually reaching 50 percent of the federal poverty level, and re-establish a COLA. The benefit increased to $853 effective October 2019.

2 Colorado took administrative action to increase its benefit level by 10 percent, which was effective on September 1, 2018.

3 Connecticut has a COLA based on the Social Security Administration’s COLA for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits. However, the state has suspended its COLA for the past few years. The benefit listed here is for Region A, which covers the state’s highest-cost area. While the maximum benefit a family could receive is $698, most families of three receive $576 a month.

4 D.C. raised benefits significantly in October of 2016, 2017, and 2018 to bring it in line with other high-cost regions. On October 1, 2019, benefits increased to $658 through a cost-of-living adjustment; in future years they will increase annually through a COLA..

5 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.

6 Illinois increased the benefit level in October 2018 to $520 for a family of three. The legislation also eliminated the difference in payment levels based on county of residence. Illinois also passed legislation in 2019 that will tie the benefit to 30 percent of the federal poverty line beginning October 2019.

7 Louisiana has a different benefit structure for its TANF program for children who are not living with their parent, called the Kinship Care Subsidy Program. In that program, the benefit is $222 per child.

8 Maine raised its benefit in October 2017 by about 20 percent and indexed benefit levels by the Supplemental Security Income inflation adjustment beginning in October 2018. Another SSI inflation adjustment took effect in October 2019.

9 Maryland adjusts its TANF benefits so that TANF and SNAP benefits combined equal at least 61 percent of the state’s Minimum Living Level. Benefits increased by 5 percent in fiscal year 2019. Another modest annual benefit increase took effect in the fall of 2019.

10 Massachusetts provides a $40 rent allowance in the benefit grant for families paying rent for private unsubsidized housing (the grant for a family of three subject to the work requirement is $578 plus the $40 housing allowance). On July 1, 2018 the state retroactively increased benefits from $618 to $633 to eliminate a reduction in benefits that the state enacted in 1995 for the portion of the caseload subject to the work requirement and time limit. A bill to tie benefits to 50 percent of the federal poverty level was before the state legislature when this paper was published.

11 Minnesota passed legislation that will increase TANF benefits by $100 per household, effective in February 2020.

12 Montana generally adjusts benefits each year to keep them tied to 35 percent of the federal poverty line. In 2019, though, there was no adjustment.

13 Nebraska adjusts benefits to keep them tied to 55 percent of the state’s standard of need, which is adjusted biannually. In 2019, the benefit increased to $468.

14 New Hampshire passed legislation in 2017 to tie TANF benefit levels to 60 percent of the federal poverty line and adjust them automatically each year. In 2019, the benefit was increased to $1,066.

15 In 2019, New Jersey passed legislation to increase benefits by 20 percent, to $559. In 2018, the state increased benefits by 10 percent.

16 The benefit listed here 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.

17 North Dakota’s benefit of $486 includes a $50 special needs portion for families with shelter costs.

18 Ohio raises TANF benefits each January based on the Social Security Administration’s COLA for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits. In 2019, the benefit was increased by $14.

19 Pennsylvania’s benefits vary by county. The benefit listed here is for the counties in Group 1 and is the highest in the state. However, it is not the most typical benefit.

20 In 2011, South Carolina reduced the share of the federal poverty level to which benefits were tied from about 18 percent to about 14 percent. As of July 2019, the benefit level is set at 33.7 percent of the Need Standard (50 percent of the federal poverty level). The benefit increased in October 2018 to $292. Another increase is anticipated in October 2020 that would raise the benefit to $299.

21 Tennessee raised its benefit by about 50 percent in December 2018 to meet the current Standard of Need, from $185 to $277.

22 Texas ties its benefit to 17 percent of the federal poverty level. In October 2018, the benefit rose to $295. In October 2019, it rose to $303.

23 Vermont has two regional benefits: a higher one for Chittenden County and a lower one for the rest of the state. It also provides a housing supplement to many 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 2010-2018; benefit levels for prior years are from the Urban Institute Welfare Rules Database. The state increased benefits by about 10 percent in 2019 to $699 for families living outside of Chittenden County, which took effect on August 1.

24 The Virginia legislature reduced the number of TANF geographic areas from three to two; Groups I and II are now one region. Families in both areas will now receive the benefit level of Group II, the higher of the two regions. This report uses the benefit for the counties in what was formerly known as Group III, the highest in the state. Virginia increased its benefits by 5 percent, which raised benefits to $442. This was effective July 1, 2019.

25 In Wisconsin, benefits have remained at $673 since 2011 for some categories of Wisconsin Works (W-2) recipients (caretakers of newborns and pregnant women with at-risk pregnancies and no other children in their care). The benefit level for W-2 Transition placement is $608 per month.

26 Wyoming’s benefits adjust on July 1 and are tied to the state’s cost-of-living index for the previous year. The state had a small percentage increase to its benefit level in 2019.

Note: TANF= Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Source: TANF benefit levels for a single-parent family of three were compiled by CBPP from various sources and are current as of July 1, 2019. Inflation-adjusted, percent change uses the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U-RS).

APPENDIX TABLE 2
TANF Benefit Levels as Percentage of Federal Poverty Level
  1996 2019
Alabama 15.2% 12.1%
Alaska 68.3% 41.5%
Arizona 32.1% 15.6%
Arkansas 18.9% 11.5%
California 55.1% 44.2%
Colorado 32.9% 28.6%
Connecticut 58.8% 39.3%
Delaware 31.2% 19.0%
D.C. 38.4% 36.1%
Florida 28.0% 17.0%
Georgia 25.9% 15.8%
Hawaii 57.2% 29.8%
Idaho 29.3% 17.4%
Illinois 34.9% 29.3%
Indiana 26.6% 16.2%
Iowa 39.4% 24.0%
Kansas 39.7% 24.1%
Kentucky 24.2% 14.7%
Louisiana 17.6% 13.5%
Maine 38.6% 33.4%
Maryland 34.5% 39.9%
Massachusetts 52.2% 35.6%
Michigan 42.4% 27.7%
Minnesota 49.2% 29.9%
Mississippi 11.1% 9.6%
Missouri 27.0% 16.4%
Montana 40.5% 33.1%
Nebraska 33.7% 26.3%
Nevada 32.2% 21.7%
New Hampshire 50.8% 60.0%
New Jersey 39.2% 31.4%
New Mexico 36.0% 25.1%
New York 53.3% 44.4%
North Carolina 25.1% 15.3%
North Dakota 39.8% 27.3%
Ohio 31.5% 28.0%
Oklahoma 28.4% 16.4%
Oregon 42.5% 28.5%
Pennsylvania 38.9% 23.7%
Rhode Island 51.2% 31.2%
South Carolina 18.5% 16.4%
South Dakota 39.8% 34.6%
Tennessee 17.1% 15.6%
Texas 17.4% 16.6%
Utah 38.5% 28.0%
Vermont 58.5% 36.0%
Virginia 32.7% 24.9%
Washington 50.5% 32.0%
West Virginia 23.4% 19.1%
Wisconsin 47.8% 36.7%
Wyoming 33.3% 39.2%

Note: TANF= Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Source: 2019 Health and Human Services poverty guidelines for a single-parent family of three (https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines) were compiled by CBPP from various sources and are current as of July 1, 2019.

APPENDIX TABLE 3
Changes in Real (Inflation-Adjusted) TANF Benefits Comparing 2019 Benefits with Benefits in 1996, 2000, 2005, and 2010
  1996-2019 2000-2019 2005-2019 2010-2019
Alabama -20% -12.2% -24.0% -15.1%
Alaska -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
Arizona -51% -46.3% -39.1% -14.8%
Arkansas -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
California -19% -16.0% -17.5% -4.0%
Colorado -13% -4.4% 8.4% -6.7%
Connecticut -33% -26.5% -16.6% -12.1%
Delaware -39% -33.0% -24.0% -31.1%
D.C. -5% 13.5% 28.7% 27.3%
Florida -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
Georgia -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
Hawaii -48% -28.3% -18.7% -15.1%
Idaho -40% -29.4% -24.0% -15.1%
Illinois -15% -7.6% -0.2% 2.1%
Indiana -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
Iowa -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
Kansas -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
Kentucky -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
Louisiana -23% -15.4% -24.0% -15.1%
Maine -13% -13.7% -7.0% 3.9%
Maryland 16% 13.9% 11.8% 4.8%
Massachusetts -31% -25.0% -22.2% -13.1%
Michigan -34% -28.2% -18.6% -15.1%
Minnesota -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
Mississippi -13% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
Missouri -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
Montana -18% -16.0% 10.3% -1.0%
Nebraska -21% -13.9% -2.3% 9.1%
Nevada -32% -25.7% -15.7% -14.5%
New Hampshire 19% 24.2% 29.6% 34.0%
New Jersey -19% -11.7% 0.2% 11.9%
New Mexico -30% -31.8% -12.7% -15.1%
New York -16% -8.4% -13.3% -11.1%
North Carolina -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
North Dakota -31% -28.8% -22.6% -13.5%
Ohio -11% -10.7% 1.2% -2.8%
Oklahoma -42% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
Oregon -33% -26.3% -16.4% -11.5%
Pennsylvania -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
Rhode Island -39% -33.0% -24.0% -15.1%
South Carolina -11% -4.1% 8.2% -8.2%
South Dakota -12% -4.2% -6.7% -6.0%
Tennessee -8% 0.3% 13.8% 27.0%
Texas -4% -1.7% 0.5% -3.7%
Utah -27% -26.0% -20.2% -15.1%
Vermont -34% -31.1% -24.0% -15.1%
Virginia -23% -16.4% -13.7% -3.6%
Washington -36% -30.2% -20.8% -14.1%
West Virginia -18% -30.6% -24.0% -15.1%
Wisconsin -23% -35.0% -26.3% -17.7%
Wyoming 19% 37.3% 55.7% 5.4%

Note: TANF= Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

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

APPENDIX TABLE 4
TANF Benefit Levels as Percentage of Fair Market Rents
  1996 2000 2019
Alabama 38.1% 36.6% 27.7%
Alaska 124.7% 117.0% 71.4%
Arizona 57.7% 55.8% 27.4%
Arkansas 46.4% 47.4% 27.5%
California 76.7% 79.1% 43.5%
Colorado 62.3% 55.5% 38.6%
Connecticut 84.6% 78.0% 52.8%
Delaware 55.5% 51.4% 29.6%
D.C. 53.3% 43.9% 38.6%
Florida 49.8% 47.8% 25.5%
Georgia 51.3% 48.4% 29.2%
Hawaii 73.2% 66.4% 31.9%
Idaho 61.6% 60.9% 38.4%
Illinois 57.6% 56.7% 48.0%
Indiana 58.8% 54.1% 34.5%
Iowa 87.5% 90.1% 53.1%
Kansas 88.1% 88.8% 51.8%
Kentucky 56.8% 58.2% 33.9%
Louisiana 41.9% 40.5% 27.4%
Maine 68.3% 81.9% 57.4%
Maryland 56.3% 59.7% 49.5%
Massachusetts 76.5% 66.2% 36.0%
Michigan 84.5% 77.9% 54.8%
Minnesota 91.1% 88.5% 51.8%
Mississippi 29.0% 40.0% 22.7%
Missouri 62.5% 62.3% 35.1%
Montana 98.9% 95.5% 70.8%
Nebraska 74.9% 73.2% 56.0%
Nevada 55.2% 50.0% 39.4%
New Hampshire 69.8% 78.1% 88.2%
New Jersey 54.2% 48.3% 37.2%
New Mexico 71.6% 84.1% 52.6%
New York 65.5% 69.2% 49.3%
North Carolina 52.9% 51.5% 30.9%
North Dakota 90.4% 97.9% 56.1%
Ohio 70.3% 69.7% 60.8%
Oklahoma 69.8% 65.2% 36.1%
Oregon 79.7% 75.8% 42.4%
Pennsylvania 69.2% 72.0% 41.8%
Rhode Island 86.2% 86.8% 51.1%
South Carolina 42.1% 41.1% 32.5%
South Dakota 83.7% 86.9% 77.3%
Tennessee 39.9% 37.1% 32.1%
Texas 34.7% 34.7% 28.0%
Utah 86.8% 74.2% 52.3%
Vermont 93.7% 100.5% 54.1%
Virginia 58.2% 56.5% 36.7%
Washington 86.9% 83.2% 39.4%
West Virginia 62.3% 77.7% 45.8%
Wisconsin 96.1% 122.1% 74.9%
Wyoming 74.2% 69.4% 81.4%

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: National Low Income Housing Coalition, “Out of Reach” reports for 1996, 2000, and 2019, http://nlihc.org/oor (the 1996 and 2000 reports are not available online). NLIHC creates weighted statewide average Fair Market Rents for various-sized apartments based on the HUD 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, 2019.

APPENDIX TABLE 5
2019 TANF and SNAP Benefit Levels as Percentage of Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
  TANF as Percent of FPL SNAP + TANF as Percent of FPL
Alabama 12.1% 40.5%
Alaska 41.5% 75.2%
Arizona 15.6% 44.1%
Arkansas 11.5% 39.9%
California 44.2% 71.4%
Colorado 28.6% 57.0%
Connecticut 39.3% 67.7%
Delaware 19.0% 47.4%
D.C. 36.1% 58.0%
Florida 17.0% 45.5%
Georgia 15.8% 44.2%
Hawaii 29.8% 70.2%
Idaho 17.4% 45.8%
Illinois 24.3% 51.3%
Indiana 16.2% 44.6%
Iowa 24.0% 52.4%
Kansas 24.1% 52.5%
Kentucky 14.7% 43.2%
Louisiana 13.5% 41.9%
Maine 33.4% 61.8%
Maryland 39.9% 62.2%
Massachusetts 34.8% 63.2%
Michigan 27.7% 56.1%
Minnesota 29.9% 52.1%
Mississippi 9.6% 38.0%
Missouri 16.4% 44.8%
Montana 33.1% 60.2%
Nebraska 26.3% 54.7%
Nevada 21.7% 50.1%
New Hampshire 60.0% 81.4%
New Jersey 31.4% 59.9%
New Mexico 25.1% 53.6%
New York 44.4% 71.6%
North Carolina 15.3% 43.7%
North Dakota 27.3% 55.8%
Ohio 28.0% 56.4%
Oklahoma 16.4% 44.8%
Oregon 28.5% 56.9%
Pennsylvania 23.7% 52.1%
Rhode Island 31.2% 59.6%
South Carolina 16.4% 44.8%
South Dakota 34.6% 63.0%
Tennessee 10.4% 38.8%
Texas 16.3% 44.7%
Utah 28.0% 56.1%
Vermont 36.0% 64.4%
Virginia 24.9% 53.2%
Washington 32.0% 60.4%
West Virginia 19.1% 47.5%
Wisconsin 36.7% 63.7%
Wyoming 38.0% 59.6%

Note: TANF= Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Source: 2019 Health and Human Services poverty guidelines for a family of three at https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines. TANF benefit levels for a single-parent family of three were compiled by CBPP from various sources and are current as of July 1, 2019. 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.

APPENDIX TABLE 7A
States Falling Lowest on Key TANF Economic Security Indicators
  TANF Benefit Levels 0-20% of FPL TANF Benefits Cover Less Than 1/3 of FMR TANF and SNAP Benefits Remain Below 50% of FPL Share of U.S. Black Child Population Share of U.S. White Child Population
Alabama X X X 3% 2%
Alaska       0% 0%
Arizona X X X 1% 2%
Arkansas X X X 1% 1%
California       5% 6%
Colorado       1% 2%
Connecticut       1% 1%
Delaware X X X 1% 0%
D.C.       1% 0%
Florida X X X 8% 5%
Georgia X X X 8% 3%
Hawaii   X   0% 0%
Idaho X   X 0% 1%
Illinois       4% 4%
Indiana X   X 2% 3%
Iowa       0% 2%
Kansas       0% 1%
Kentucky X   X 1% 2%
Louisiana X X X 4% 2%
Maine       0% 1%
Maryland       4% 2%
Massachusetts       1% 2%
Michigan       3% 4%
Minnesota       1% 2%
Mississippi X X X 3% 1%
Missouri X   X 2% 3%
Montana       0% 0%
Nebraska       0% 1%
Nevada       1% 1%
New Hampshire       0% 1%
New Jersey       3% 2%
New Mexico       0% 0%
New York       6% 5%
North Carolina X X X 5% 3%
North Dakota       0% 0%
Ohio       4% 5%
Oklahoma X   X 1% 1%
Oregon       0% 1%
Pennsylvania       3% 5%
Rhode Island       0% 0%
South Carolina X   X 3% 2%
South Dakota       0% 0%
Tennessee X X X 3% 3%
Texas X X X 9% 6%
Utah       0% 2%
Vermont       0% 0%
Virginia       4% 3%
Washington       1% 3%
West Virginia X   X 0% 1%
Wisconsin       1% 2%
Wyoming       0% 0%

Note: TANF= Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; FPL = Federal Poverty Level; FMR = Fair Market Rent; SNAP = Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Sources: TANF benefit levels for a single-parent family of three were compiled by CBPP from various sources and are current as of July 1, 2018. 2018 Health and Human Services poverty guidelines for a family of three at https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines. FMR levels from National Low-Income Housing Coalition, “Out of Reach 2019,” http://nlihc.org/oor. 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. 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. Racial composition analysis based on U.S. Census American Community Survey 2018 child population data.

APPENDIX TABLE 7B
Share of Black and White Child Population Living in States Failing on Key TANF Economic Security Indicators
  Live in States With TANF Benefit Levels 0-20% of FPL Live in States With TANF Benefits Covering Less Than 1/3 of FMR Live in States Where TANF and SNAP Benefits Remain Below 50% of FPL
Share of U.S. Black Child Population 55% 46% 55%
Share of U.S. White Child Population 40% 27% 40%

End Notes

[1] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, “A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty,” 2019, https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25246/a-roadmap-to-reducing-child-poverty.

[2] Prior to October 2018, Illinois had different benefit levels based on geographic region.

[3] Wyoming’s benefit level is adjusted each July based on the state’s cost-of-living index for the previous year as determined by the Division of Economic Analysis.

[4] This benefit represents families living outside Chittenden County, Vermont.

[5] The 2018 poverty guideline from the Department of Health and Human Services for a family of three is $1,732 per month in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C.; Alaska and Hawaii have higher guidelines. (See https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines.) 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] Racial composition analysis based on U.S. Census July 2017 population data.

[7] Joe Soss et al., “Setting the Terms of Relief: Explaining State Policy Choices in the Devolution Revolution,” American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 45, No. 2, April 2001, http://urban.hunter.cuny.edu/~schram/ssvosettingthetermsofrelief.pdf.

[8]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.

[9] Fair Market Rents, set by HUD, are gross rent estimates. They include the shelter rent plus the cost of all utilities except telephones.

[10] Analysis of compiled TANF benefit levels and data on state average FMRs published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2018 “Out of Reach” report, http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/OOR_2018.pdf.

[11] CBPP calculation of TANF caseload and HUD administrative data.

[12] Matthew Desmond, “Eviction and the Reproduction of Urban Poverty,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 118, No. 1, 2012.

[13] Will Fischer, “Research Shows Housing Vouchers Reduce Hardship and Provide Platform for Long-Term Gains Among Children,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, October 7, 2015, htps://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/research-shows-housing-vouchers-reduce-hardship-and-provide-platform-for-long-term.

[14] “Characteristics and Financial Circumstances of TANF Recipients Fiscal Year (FY) 2018,” Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Family Assistance, https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ofa/fy18_characteristics_web_508_2.pdf.

[15] “Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2017,” Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, February 2019, https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/resource-files/Characteristics2017.pdf.

[16] In calculating typical SNAP benefits, this analysis assumed that a family’s shelter costs are the median shelter costs for families of three receiving SNAP with incomes at or below 80 percent of the poverty line and that the household received no income besides the TANF benefit. A family’s SNAP benefit is based on its income and deductions, most significantly the capped deduction for high shelter costs. A family receives the maximum SNAP benefit if its net income (income minus deductions) is zero, usually because its income is low or its shelter costs are high relative to income. In two-thirds of states, the TANF benefit is so low that the estimated SNAP benefit used in Figure 4 is the maximum monthly benefit for a family of three in 2018 ($504). However, the SNAP benefit that an individual TANF family actually qualifies for, based on its particular circumstances, is likely lower than the maximum benefit because many TANF households either have other income or do not incur shelter expenses high enough to receive the maximum benefit.

[17] Arloc Sherman and Tazra Mitchell, “Economic Security Programs Help Low-Income Children Succeed Over Long Term, Many Studies Find,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, July 17, 2017, https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/economic-security-programs-help-low-income-children-succeed-over.

[18] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty,” 2019, https://www.nap.edu/read/25246/chapter/2#6.

[19] Greg Duncan and Katherine Magnuson, “The Long Reach of Early Childhood Poverty,” Pathways, Winter 2011, https://inequality.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/PathwaysWinter11_Duncan.pdf.

[20] A statutory cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is the best way to ensure that benefits keep pace with inflation. TANF agencies will fare much better in their state budget process if a COLA is part of the baseline of a current-needs budget. For example, Wyoming’s COLA is based on the Wyoming Cost of Living Index for the previous year. The COLA has made Wyoming one of only three states whose benefits have risen since 1996 in inflation-adjusted terms. Ohio’s COLA follows the same approach used for Social Security and SSI benefits: the state uses the Social Security Administration’s COLA percentage to raise TANF benefits at the start of every calendar year.