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Policy Basics

President Clinton and Congress created Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in 1996 in an effort to “end welfare as we know it.”

TANF reaches many fewer families than it used to, and states are increasingly using federal and state TANF dollars for programs and services that do not target the families with the lowest incomes. Also, TANF benefits have lost a fifth of their value since 1996 in most states. We analyze how federal TANF policies affect states and explore ways that federal policymakers can improve the program to better serve families in poverty.