Office of Family Assistance

OFA, which administers the TANF program within ACF, is strongly committed to the importance of early childhood development as a critical factor in strengthening families. Families receiving TANF with children in stable, high-quality child care can focus on their own goals for employment success and economic self-sufficiency. As a general rule, states, territories, and tribes have the flexibility to use federal TANF funds and maintenance-of-effort (MOE) funds to provide a range of benefits and services such as cash assistance, job training, job placement, education, subsidized employment, and supportive services including child care.

In FY 2018, combined federal TANF and state MOE expenditures and transfers totaled $31.3 billion. Across the United States in FY 2018, 17.0 percent of those funds were used for child care (including funds transferred to CCDF) and 8.3 percent went to HS and pre-kindergarten programs. In 16 states, child care was the top TANF/MOE spending category. More information about how states used their TANF and MOE funds in FY 2018 can be found in the TANF financial data tables and national and individual state pie charts.

Partnership Opportunities

TANF funds may be used to provide high-quality child care. CCDF and HS are also important partners and sources of support for high-quality early childhood services. States may transfer up to 30 percent of their TANF funds to CCDF.

Many states also use TANF funds to support and expand HS and pre-kindergarten programs, other school readiness programs, and home visiting programs. TANF funds may be used for pre-kindergarten or kindergarten education programs if they do not meet the definition of a “general state expense.”

Abuse can result in victims who were not previously considered low-income falling into poverty: violence often undermines victims’ ability to work, have a place to live, and do what is necessary to pursue a more stable life for themselves and their children. Child care assistance helps domestic violence survivors find work, as many have multiple young children and limited or no support in finding care for them. Developing and sustaining meaningful, collaborative partnerships between domestic violence programs and public benefits programs is vital to enhancing safe access, reducing barriers, and providing trauma-informed responses to low-income families striving to come out of poverty.

More information about general TANF funding principles, and particularly TANF funding for early childhood education, school readiness, kindergarten, and other public education programs can be found in this TANF Program Instruction.

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