In 2020, the average monthly expenses in the U.S. ranged from $3,189 for a household of one to $6,780 for a family of five. These amounts are not always attainable for every family, especially for those with low income who may be struggling with unemployment or other economic hardships.

This is where the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program comes in. This program provides low-income families with children monthly cash assistance as well as a variety of services and resources to help them become economically self-sufficient.

Learn About TANF: Cash Assistance for Low-Income Families

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Family Assistance manages the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

Nonetheless, you don’t receive TANF funds directly from the U.S. government; in fact, the government gives money to states and U.S. territories that then distribute the funds to qualifying families and agencies that provide services and resources.

Each state and territory manage their own TANF program, so qualification expectations, availability and ways to receive funds and resources can vary. However, in general, you must either be pregnant or be responsible for a child under 19 years of age in order to qualify.

The exact amount households will receive every month will ultimately depend on the family income, the size and the resources they have. In most states, to apply you will need to fill out an application form and provide your household information. The application methods will also vary according to the state you live in, so make sure you contact your local program to apply.

There is a national time limit on how long participants can continue to receive benefits: 60 months or five years. However, states may set additional limits.

Unlike the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), where monthly payments are available exclusively to buy groceries approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the money granted by the TANF program can be used in any way the household sees fit, with some restrictions.

In order to continue to receive payments, participants need to meet the job search requirements, showing that they are regularly looking for a job. These requirements are set individually by each state.