About TANF

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides approximately $16.5 billion to states, the District of Columbia, and US territories (Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico).  Federally-recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Native organizations may offer TANF through the tribal TANF program). 

The TANF program provides states (which includes DC and territories for this purpose) with flexibility in operating programs designed to help low-income families with children achieve economic self-sufficiencyThe federal government does not provide TANF cash assistance directly to the public. Instead, states use their TANF grants to fund monthly cash assistance payments to low-income families with children, as well as a wide range of services that are designed to address one or more of the program’s four broad purposes:

  • Provide assistance to needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives
  • End the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage
  • Prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies
  • Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families

These purposes were outlined in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), the law that created TANF, replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and related programs.   

At the federal level, the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) administers the TANF and tribal TANF programs. OFA operates within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).   


For information on your state’s policies, find your state program.

For questions about the federal administration of TANF, contact info.OFA@acf.hhs.gov.

Current as of: