TANF Work Requirements and State Strategies to Fulfill Them

Publication Date: March 15, 2012


A central component of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is its emphasis on work. Adult TANF recipients, with some exceptions, must participate in work activities as a condition of receiving cash benefits. This brief discusses the federal work requirements and state strategies for meeting them. It especially focuses on state strategies since passage of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA), the recession that began in December 2007, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The DRA effectively increased required work participation rates for most states, and the recession led to the highest unemployment rates in decades, making it more difficult for states to meet work participation requirements. The ARRA increased funds for emergency and basic assistance, subsidized jobs programs, and short-term assistance to support work activities. States’ reactions to the confluence of these events present new lessons for TANF.

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