TANF in North Carolina is called Work First, and it operates under the United States Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. What is TANF? Also known as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, this program is structured on the idea that parents hold the responsibility to support themselves and their children. The Work First program offers short-term training and other services to help parents gain employment and become self-sufficient. In order to best assist households in moving families off government assistance, Work First emphasizes three key strategies; diversion, work and retention.
The first strategy, diversion, involves keeping families off the TANF program by helping them with funding for unexpected emergencies or setbacks. Typically, there is a one-time payment distributed based on a family’s calculated needs, up to the equivalent of three months of cash Work First benefits. The “work” strategy focuses on shortening the length of time that families are on TANF benefits by making it mandatory to find and keep employment. Finally, retention aims to help families save and stay employed by easing financial burdens for common expenses such as child care and transportation.
Who qualifies for TANF in North Carolina?
In order to qualify for TANF benefits in North Carolina, you must meet certain established state and federal eligibility criteria. Fundamentally, Work First provides aid aimed at children and their families, and the program requirements reflect that. If you want to apply for TANF, then you must:
- Be a resident of North Carolina.
- Be either pregnant or responsible for a child younger than 19 years of age.
- Be a U.S. national, citizen, legal alien or permanent resident.
- Have low or very low income.
- Be either underemployed, unemployed or about to become employed.
Note: Families who reach the aid limit will not be eligible to receive Work First Family Assistance for three years.
Each family has a different situation, so sometimes a different approach may be helpful in meeting their financial needs. Applicants who meet TANF eligibility requirements may find that the Benefit Diversion program works best to help their situation. Although the application process is the same, the funds are distributed differently. Benefit Diversion includes a one-time lump-sum payment equal to a maximum of three months of benefits from TANF in North Carolina. Additionally, eligible participants can also receive assistance from other government programs like Medicaid and Food and Nutrition services for the months they are receiving Benefit Diversion aid. Some potential circumstances that may require Benefit Diversion include a family:
- With a caretaker on maternity leave receiving little or no pay who is expected to return to the same job in a few weeks.
- With a caretaker who has a just graduated and has a firm job offer after graduation. The assistance would be offered between graduation and beginning employment two months later.
- With a caretaker who is recently employed but will not receive their first check in time to pay bills.
How to Apply for TANF in North Carolina?
Currently, a North Carolina TANF application can only be submitted at local county Departments of Social Services. In North Carolina, there are 100 counties, each with their own local Social Services Agency. During the application process, you must be able to establish your eligibility for assistance. The primary TANF requirements and some forms of accepted documents are listed below.
- Identity – Passports, IDs or other primary documents
- Address or living arrangements – A valid North Carolina driver’s license, lease agreement or utility bill
- Age – Birth certificate
- Kinship – Birth certificate or a copy of court order documents
- Citizenship or alien status – Passport, ID or other primary documents
- Social Security Number – Valid Social Security Number or card
- Income – Wage stubs, employer verification, tax forms or award letters
- Assets/Resources – Ownership and tax records or bank and court documents
For details about applying for TANF, download our free comprehensive guide.
How much cash assistance will I get in North Carolina?
Since there is no TANF benefits calculator available for North Carolina, residents must visit a local county Department of Social Services to receive an estimate of their benefits. Generally, a caseworker will begin by making an assessment of a family’s income, situation and financial needs. Benefits can also be offered in the form of childcare services, transportation assistance and training for employment. Recipients of Benefit Diversion have a maximum payment of three months of Work First Family Assistance benefits for a family of the same size.
Note: The exact amount of benefits will vary from case-to-case.
How long does it take to get TANF benefits in North Carolina?
TANF in North Carolina is organized similarly to how employees in the workforce would receive their salary. Individuals are expected to work first and then they will obtain their benefits afterward. Before any assistance is distributed, all adults who are included in the assistance payment must sign a Mutual Responsibility Plan of Action agreement. This agreement ensures that all adult beneficiaries work or participate in work-related activities. The only circumstance where a family would receive their TANF benefits without working is if they are obtaining assistance from Benefit Diversion. In these cases, participants would obtain their benefits during their period of crisis or financial need.
To learn more about obtaining TANF benefits, download our detailed and helpful guide.
How long can you receive TANF in North Carolina?
North Carolina firmly believes that parents are responsible for providing for their families so TANF benefits have time restrictions. Typically, once they begin working, participants can receive benefits for up to 24 months. Once this 24-month limit has been reached, most families will be ineligible for Work First Assistance for three years. Participants in the Benefits Diversion program can only receive assistance for up to three months.
How can I check my TANF status in North Carolina?
Since TANF in North Carolina is handled entirely by local counties, you will only be able to check your status by contacting your local Department of Social Services.