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TANF-ACF-PI-2010-06 (Procedures in the event of the exhaustion of the Emergency Fund)

Published: August 18, 2010
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Program Instructions (PI)


State, Territory, and Tribal agencies administering the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program.


Procedures in the event of the exhaustion of the Emergency Fund.


To inform TANF jurisdictions of the procedures for awarding funds if the total requests for funds exceed $5 billion.


Section 403(c) of the Social Security Act; TANF-ACF-PA-2009-01; TANF-ACF-PI-2009-05.


As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress appropriated $5 billion for the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund, known as the Emergency Fund. If all jurisdictions sought the maximum amount for which they qualified, total claims on the Fund would exceed the $5 billion appropriation. We know that some jurisdictions do not intend to seek the full amount for which they could qualify, but it is still possible that total claims could reach or exceed $5 billion. If the combination of actual and projected awards reaches the $5 billion mark, we will use the following procedures to ensure that we treat all jurisdictions fairly and equitably.


As we receive applications, we tally the cumulative projected awards based on the combination of amounts previously awarded and estimated awards from expenditures reported in each application under review. Once we receive an application that tips the combination of actual and projected awards over the $5 billion mark (the tipper) we assign each application a queue date (date and time received), which dictates its place in the queue. We assign all applications received before the tipper the same queue date – one working day before the date we received the tipper – and the tipper application and each application received after the tipper a queue date and time corresponding to when we received the application.

Consistent with our prior instructions, an application is considered received on the date it is received by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) Central Office, preferably by using the special Emergency Fund email address (TANFEmergencyFund@acf.hhs.gov). An application submitted any other way (e.g., to the Regional Office) will not be added to the queue until received by the OFA Central Office. Likewise, an application will not go into the queue unless it is complete, meaning that the jurisdiction completed all applicable sections of the form, including a current completion date and a signed certification.

Enhanced Processing Procedures

Once we receive the tipper, we will apply enhanced processing procedures to all applications, those we had received before the tipper but are still under review, as well as all applications we receive after the tipper. In this process, a jurisdiction will have 10 working days from the date we provide comments on the application to respond to our questions and make the application approvable. If the application is approvable within the allotted time period, the jurisdiction will keep its place in the queue. If the application is still not approvable, we will provide a second round of comments and allow five additional working days to make it approvable.

If the jurisdiction does not respond within the allotted time period or does not provide an adequate response to each question (with revisions to the application as necessary), we will add one working day to the date of its receipt for each working day it is late.

As a result, the jurisdiction could lose its position in the queue. Here is an example: jurisdiction A submits an application on August 9 and we assign it a queue date of August 9. We provide comments on August 11 and the jurisdiction’s response is due August 25 (10 working days). The jurisdiction responds on August 24, but we determine that we need more information. On August 25, we provide the jurisdiction comments and an additional five working days. The jurisdiction responds on the seventh working day, two working days late. We would then push the queue date back by two working days to August 11. Jurisdiction B submits an application on August 10 and has a queue date of August 10. It responds adequately within its allotted time period and is now ahead of jurisdiction A in the queue.

This process will allow us to fund each application received before the tipper if the jurisdiction provides needed information in a timely manner; however, if a jurisdiction fails to do so, it could fall behind the tipper and other post-tipper applicants in the queue. The tipper and any applications with a queue date after the tipper (which could include pre-tipper applications that fell behind) will only be funded to the extent that funds are available when we reach their place in the queue.

A jurisdiction cannot move ahead in the queue by submitting an application before the expiration of the 10-day period, although it may wish to submit early to ensure that there are no remaining questions or issues with its application.

When we receive the tipper, if the review team has already provided comments to a jurisdiction asking for more information about its application, we will notify it immediately that it must respond to all pending questions (and submit a revised OFA-100 if necessary) within 10 working days of our notification. If we have received applications but have not reviewed them before the tipper arrives, we will review them as quickly as possible and allow the jurisdiction 10 working days to respond from the date we provide comments. In this way, we treat all pending applications equally and fairly.

If a policy issue arises that requires a lengthier review on our part, we will reserve sufficient monies to fund the award to the jurisdiction in question (or the remainder of the funds if sufficient monies are no longer available). For example, if a jurisdiction reported expenditures that would warrant an award of $10 million, but there is an unresolved policy issue, we will reserve the $10 million, pending resolution of the policy issue.

Updating Data and Reporting New Data after Receiving the Tipper

After we reach the tipping point, we will evaluate any post-tipper requests for emergency funds by considering two components separately:

  1. updates to previously submitted data – meaning data for quarters, expenditure categories, and programs within those quarters and categories that were funded (or pending approval) before we received the tipper; and
  2. newly reported expenditures – meaning data for quarters, expenditure categories, and programs within those quarters and categories that were not funded before we received the tipper.

First, we will determine whether the updates to previously submitted data result in a net negative or positive change in expenditures. If the net change is negative (i.e., the jurisdiction has received greater funding than the data now support), we will not consider the post-tipper request for additional emergency funds until the jurisdiction has returned the overpayment.

If the net change is positive, we will include the net positive amount as part of the new application, along with any newly reported expenditures that the jurisdiction includes in its application. We will provide comments and inform the jurisdiction of its 10-working-day deadline to maintain its queue date in accordance with the process outlined above. Thus, we will reconcile net downward revisions immediately upon receipt, while processing net upward revisions plus any expenditures for new programs or quarters in the order received, using one applicant queue.

If jurisdictions repay overestimates in FY 2011, we will use these de-obligated funds to continue to make payments to jurisdictions in the queue that had received awards on or before September 30, 2010. However, a jurisdiction can only receive such a payment from the remainder of the $5 billion if it actually received an award in FY 2010. If the jurisdiction did not receive an award in FY 2010, the jurisdiction will be unable to qualify for any amount available as a result of return of de-obligations.

Please note that we will be seeking approval from the Office of Management and Budget to revise the instructions to the OFA-100 in a manner consistent with this Program Instruction.


Please direct inquiries to the TANF Program Manager in your Region.


Earl S. Johnson
Office of Family Assistance

Last Reviewed: October 29, 2015