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Guide to TANF Interviews
To enroll in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, you must complete a TANF benefits interview. This interview is part of the application and screening process to determine your eligibility.
After you submit an application for benefits, you will be assigned a caseworker to manage your request. That caseworker will schedule an in-person interview with you to review your application, what additional documents you need and what you are eligible for. In some cases, you can have a phone interview instead of an in-person interview. However, during your initial application, you typically must have an in-person interview.
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The TANF interview gives you and your caseworker an opportunity to review your application. If there are any questions or errors in your application, you can address them at the interview. It is important to keep track of interviews and attend them when scheduled. In many states, failing to attend an interview can remove you from the TANF program entirely.
Note: Our downloadable guide can teach you more about the importance of your TANF application interview, including how you should prepare, what you should expect and more.
How to Prepare for Your TANF Interview
Before you go to your interview after completing the TANF application process, you should be armed with all the documents and evidence required for enrollment. In some states, you should submit these by mail or online before attending the interview. In other states, you should gather these documents and bring them with you to your interview. The documents required will vary from state to state. However, generally, you should expect to provide the following:
- Proof of income, such as pay stubs or W-2s.
- Proof of assets, including bank statements for all accounts.
- Proof of residency, such as a utilities bill.
- Social Security Number (SSN).
- Birth certificates for children, if relevant.
- Medical report for pregnancy, if relevant.
- Photo identification.
Because TANF benefits are only available to parents of children or pregnant women, a birth certificate or medical report is required. The birth certificate should demonstrate a parental relationship. Other paperwork demonstrating proof of relationship, such as adoption paperwork, may be acceptable as well. Review your documents and financial situation before the interview. During the interview, you will be asked questions about your financial history and family makeup.
In addition to gathering your financial documents, you may also be required to submit to a drug test at a TANF interview. Some states, like Kansas, use the interview as an opportunity to test applicants who have a history of drug use.
For example, in Kansas, if you have an arrest record from drug-related charges from the past year, you may be required to perform a drug test at your interview. However, not all states perform drug tests. In Florida, for example, drug tests used to be mandatory for TANF applicants. However, the requirement was struck down in court, and the state no longer drug tests applicants. Nevertheless, keep drug testing requirements in mind as you prepare for your TANF interview.
How to Get to TANF Interviews
It is not uncommon for some TANF applicants to have difficulty keeping appointments. Often, the precise office location an applicant must visit will vary for different appointments. Some offices may be farther than others, and applicants with no access to a car or reliable public transportation can struggle to get to the appointment.
However, many TANF offices are aware of the hardship associated with getting to the office for an interview. In some cases, TANF applicants can opt for a phone interview instead of an in-person interview when access to transportation is limited.
Keeping TANF interview appointments is important to remaining in the program. In a majority of states, being marked “no show” for an interview is also seen as withdrawing your application altogether. In such cases, you may be required to restart the TANF benefits application process all over again.
If you cannot make an appointment, you should contact your caseworker as soon as you know you will not arrive on time. You should always attempt to arrange a phone interview ahead of time when you know you may have difficulty arriving to the appointment.
In some states, the length of your commute may be enough to waive a TANF in-person interview requirement. In such cases, you would be allowed to rely on a phone interview instead. Typically, the commute from your home to the TANF office must be more than two hours long to qualify as a hardship. Contact your caseworker to inquire about whether your commute qualifies you for phone interviews instead.
When are interviews required?
There are two common reasons why you would need to have a TANF interview. The first reason is your original eligibility interview. Your eligibility interview involves meeting with your caseworker to discuss your application and financial situation. At that interview, you may be required to submit to a drug test and be asked additional questions about your background. In some cases, you may be able to conduct your initial eligibility interview by phone.
However, typically states prefer or mandate an in-person meeting to begin the TANF application for benefits.
In addition to your initial TANF interview for eligibility, most states will schedule follow-up appointments at 12-month intervals. These annual appointments are meant to determine whether or not your financial situation has changed and whether or not you are still eligible for TANF benefits. These types of interviews are more likely to be conducted by phone.
Finally, you may have to schedule a TANF interview if you need to request an extension of benefits. According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), you can only receive TANF benefits for a maximum of 60 months in your lifetime. This maximum applies throughout your life and across states, although some states impose even shorter maximums.
However, some states will allow you to extend your benefits if you are experiencing qualifying hardships. In such cases, you may have to have an interview with your caseworker to discuss your eligibility and how long you can stay on the program. You may be able to complete this interview by phone as well, depending on your state.
To learn more about when you might require an in-person TANF interview, download our free guide.