Understanding Two Categories of TANF Spending: "Other" and "Authorized Under Prior Law"

Publication Date: September 30, 2009


The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 brought about sweeping changes in the funding structure for the nation’s cash assistance program. Among these changes was the transformation of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, rooted in an effort to shift power from the federal government to states. To encourage autonomy and innovation, a mandate was included in the federal welfare reform legislation to provide TANF block grant funds to the states, allowing greater program flexibility in spending and other decisions.

Now, more than a decade after the passage of the landmark legislation, little is known about how a noteworthy portion—roughly 15 percent—of these TANF funds is used. The purpose of this study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research on behalf of the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families (ACF), is to understand how states are spending federal TANF funds reported as “Other” and “Authorized Under Prior Law” (AUPL) on the ACF-196 federal reporting form and, based on findings and feedback from states, to provide recommendations for improving federal reporting.

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