After you submit your application for TANF benefits, you have to think about your future in the program. First, you must sit through the in-person interview that will finish determining your eligibility. Then, you await your state program’s response: acceptance or denial. If you are denied, you can appeal the decision and pursue your application. If you are accepted, you enter the program and begin receiving benefits. As soon as you begin receiving benefits, you should begin job-seeking activities. TANF is a work program meant to help you stay afloat while you seek employment. The sections below describe tips to complete the interview process and appeal a denial.
If you receiving TANF benefits, child support may be affected. In most cases, you must waive your right to child support while you receive TANF benefits. That means that the state will pursue child support cases and keep payments rather than pass them on to you. If you receive child support payments and are considering TANF, you may want to consider how it will affect your budget. Finally, TANF benefits are capped at a lifetime maximum that varies by state. There are some cases, however, where you can extend TANF benefits longer than your state’s cap.
Note: The sections below describe how the program affects child care payments and how you can request an extension of benefits. However, if you want to receive more information about what happens after applying for TANF, download our free guide.
Learn About the TANF Interview
As part of the application for TANF benefits in most states, you must complete an in-person eligibility interview. Typically when you schedule this interview for the first time, you must bring numerous documents to prove eligibility. This includes W-2s, tax returns, pay stubs, bank account statements and more. In addition, you must bring evidence of your household composition, often including testimony from neighbors or landlords. You should research the required documents for a TANF interview before heading to your appointment.
It is important to arrive on time to TANF interviews and schedule phone interviews when you cannot make it in. In many states, failing to appear for an interview can result in a cancellation of your TANF application. If transportation to interviews is a problem, you can request exemption from in-person interviews. In most states, transportation to the interview may be considered a hardship if the commute takes more than two hours. Contact your caseworker if you believe travel to the interview may be a qualifying hardship for you.
How to Appeal a TANF Denial
In some cases, an application for TANF benefits may result in an application denial. Although a denial might seem like the end, you have the ability to appeal the decision. If you believe you were denied benefits inappropriately, you may be able to prove at a hearing that you are eligible. You can bring evidence of your finances and testimony from your neighbors, family and landlords.
In most states, instructions on how to appeal a TANF denial are included in the letter delivered to you announcing the decision. You should request a hearing as soon as possible to appeal the decision. In some cases, you may have been denied benefits due to a miscommunication about your finances. In that case, correcting the denial may only be a matter of providing correct information. Typically, your denial letter should provide a reason as to why you were denied benefits.
Find Out About TANF and Child Support Payments
If you are eligible for TANF and child support, you may not realize that one affects the other. In a majority of states, if you receive TANF benefits and you are eligible for child support, you must waive that support. Instead, you must agree to cooperate with state efforts to pursue child support. Once collected, the state will keep the child support payment and use it to reimburse itself for providing you with TANF benefits. States do this to recoup some of the costs of pursuing child support payments, particularly for families not on TANF.
In about half of states, if you receive both TANF and child support, states will claim all your child support benefits. However, in the other half of states, you may be able to receive a portion of your child support payment. This payment can range from just $50 to as much as is required to meet your monetary needs. In Minnesota, you can receive all of your child support payment.
Additionally, states that allow you to receive child support will also allow you to exclude that money when determining your household income. That means some or all of your child support income will not be included when determining whether your income meets TANF eligibility requirements.
How to Request an Extension of TANF Benefits
The federal government caps TANF benefits at 60 months in one lifetime. That means that in total and across states, you can only receive benefits for a maximum of five years throughout your life. However, the TANF benefits you receive as a child do not count toward this total. Fortunately, states will allow you to extend your TANF benefits under particular circumstances. If you are experiencing a qualifying hardship, such as fleeing a domestic violence situation, then you may be able to extend benefits. In some states, you can extend benefits for a specific amount of time. In others, you can extend TANF benefits indefinitely until the qualifying hardship is resolved. During this time, you typically are still required to demonstrate sufficient job-seeking activity to maintain benefits.
If you believe you need to extend TANF benefits past the maximum duration, you should contact your caseworker to learn your options. In some states, you must apply to extend your benefits several months before you meet the limit. In other states, you cannot apply for extended benefits until you meet the time limit. Typically, the only thing you need to do to apply is meet with your caseworker and discuss your financial situation. In some cases, you may have to provide additional documentation. For instance, domestic violence victims should provide evidence from a police report, shelter worker or another certified professional.
To learn more about how to receive an extension on your TANF benefits, download our in-depth guide.