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Policy Basics

We research and analyze federal and state issues related to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and child support programs. We work with a network of state advocates and program administrators to help states redesign their programs to ensure that families have income to meet their basic needs. We also issue analyses detailing the harmful impact of proposals that would weaken anti-poverty programs and lifting up evidence on promising policies to expand opportunities for individuals to increase their education and skills.

The TANF block grant, with which states use to provide direct cash assistance, child care, work-related activities and supports, and other services to low-income families, was created in 1996 to replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).

Our research has found TANF reaches many fewer low-income families than it used to, and TANF benefits have lost more than 20 percent of their value since 1996 in most states, making it very hard for families to meet basic needs. Our analyses have also shown that states’ spending has shifted away from providing cash assistance and toward other, often unrelated, state programs and services.