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Learn About TANF Extensions
In select circumstances, you can be approved to get a TANF benefits extension beyond the limits set by your state or the federal government. However, the standards of eligibility for an extension of benefits will vary from state to state.
If you think you need an extension to your state’s limit on TANF benefits, look into what hardships qualify you to receive an extension. Download our helpful guide for more information about qualifying hardships and how to request a TANF extension.
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In some states, you must request a TANF benefits extension several months before you meet your benefits limit. In other states, you cannot apply for an extension until you have reached the benefits limit. You must research the precise procedures in your state to make a request.
You can contact your caseworker to learn what precise steps you should take to seek an extension. The sections below describe when you can get a TANF extension and how to apply for an extension if you qualify.
When You Can Get a TANF Extension
You can extend your TANF benefits in some situations if you are reaching the maximum monthly limit of your allowable benefits. For example, you can get a TANF extension if you are experiencing a situation that counts as a qualifying hardship to extend benefits.
There are no national standards laid out for what specifically qualifies as a hardship. Instead, states set their own standards for TANF extension requirements and qualifying hardships. However, the following circumstances are typically considered qualifying hardships:
- Victim of domestic violence
- Physical or mental disability
- Alcoholism or drug addiction
- Parent or caretaker of someone with a disability
- Temporary unemployability
If you are experiencing one of the above hardships, then you may qualify for a TANF benefits extension in your state. However, merely experiencing a hardship is not necessarily enough to qualify for an extension. Some states have stricter standards in place to grant a TANF benefits extension. For example, Florida typically requires evidence of diligent job searching to grant a request, even with a hardship.
If you meet all of your state’s hardship qualifications, then you can submit a request for an extension of your benefits. If you are unsure whether your situation qualifies as a hardship, then you can reach out to your caseworker who was assigned to you after applying for the TANF program to inquire.
How long can TANF benefits be extended?
The maximum limit for how long you can extend TANF benefits will vary greatly from state to state. The federal government prohibits states from using federal funds to extend benefits for families past 60 months no matter how much TANF participants receive in benefits.
Additionally, the federal government restricts the percentage of extensions states can grant to 20 percent of the state’s monthly caseload. Therefore, states are limited in their ability to grant extensions by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Nevertheless, some states are willing to extend benefits indefinitely for applicants experiencing particular hardships.
Some states that extend TANF benefits have lower maximums for TANF benefits. For example, the state of Ohio caps TANF benefits at 36 months for individuals and only grants some extensions after a two-year waiting period.
An extension request is required to receive TANF benefits for longer than 36 months in the state of Ohio. In West Virginia, only a six-month TANF benefits extension will be granted in most cases. However, exceptions are made for candidates seeking an extension due to domestic violence circumstances. Exceptions are most commonly made for domestic violence across states.
How to Extend TANF Benefits
The process required to get a TANF extension varies from state to state. Some states like Illinois require you to submit a written notice about your request. States like California may require you to notify your caseworker, while others may have a form available for you to submit. You should research the policies in your specific state to learn what you should do to extend your TANF benefits. However, the process typically involves the following:
- Schedule an appointment with your caseworker to reassess your financial status and need for aid several months before the time limit comes up. At that meeting, you and your caseworker will evaluate your ability to sustain yourself.
- If you qualify for hardship status and cannot financially sustain yourself, then your caseworker will note it in your case file.
- If you qualify for an extension, then you may continue to receive benefits until the extension expires. In some states, this extension will remain in place until the condition surrounding your hardship is taken care of.
By the standard process to extend TANF benefits, you will not have to fill out additional forms. Instead, your caseworker will already be familiar with your financial background and circumstances. It is important to update your financial information as required in order to confirm your eligibility and hardship status. If your information is inaccurate and you have failed to update your account, you may be denied the opportunity to extend your benefits. To learn more about the TANF application process, download our free guide.
How to Pay Back Assistance to Extend TANF Benefits
When you run out of allowable months, you have the option to request a TANF benefits extension based on hardship. However, in addition to extending your allowable benefits by receiving additional allowable months, you can also extend them by repaying what you have received. By paying back what you have received, you can “restore” eligible TANF months to your account.
According to the United States Office of Family Assistance, families receiving benefits can extend TANF benefits by paying back money assistance. However, whether this program is in place is at the discretion of states. The Office of Family Assistance says that if a family receiving benefits receives a lump-sum income payment, then that family can pay the state back for several months’ of benefits. If the state opts to allow beneficiaries to do that, then the state could then extend the family’s eligible benefit period based on how much was repaid.
For example, a family that receives $500 in monthly benefits earns a lump-sum income payment. That family sends the state $2,000 in repayments and becomes eligible for four additional months of TANF benefits. If a family has the opportunity to repay TANF benefits and their state has a program in place, then they may be able to extend their TANF benefits this way.