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About TANF


The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program became the TANF Bureau within the Office of Family Assistance in May 2006. The Bureau has primary responsibility for the administration of the programs authorized under titles IV-A and XVI of the Social Security Act.

Through its divisions and program units, the Bureau provides assistance and work opportunities to needy families by granting states, territories and tribes the federal funds and wide flexibility to develop and implement their own welfare programs. The assistance is time-limited and promotes work, responsibility and self-sufficiency.

The TANF block grant is administered by state, territorial and tribal agencies. Citizens can make application for TANF at the respective agency administering the program in their community. The federal government does not provide TANF assistance directly to individuals or families.


Under the welfare reform legislation of 1996, (the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act – PWRORA – Public Law 104-193), TANF replaced the welfare programs known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) program and the Emergency Assistance (EA) program. The law ended federal entitlement to assistance and instead created TANF as a block grant that provides States, territories and tribes federal funds each year. These funds cover benefits, administrative expenses, and services targeted to needy families. TANF became effective July 1, 1997, and was reauthorized in February 2006 under the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.


TANF is designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency. To carry out its mission, the TANF Bureau: 1) develops legislative, regulatory, and budgetary proposals; 2) presents operational planning objectives and initiatives related to welfare reform to the Director; 3) oversees the progress of approved activities; 4) provides leadership and coordination for welfare reform within ACF; and 5) provides leadership and linkages with other agencies on welfare reform issues, including agencies within DHHS, relevant agencies across the Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments, and non-governmental organizations at the Federal, State, and local levels.


States receive a block grant to design and operate their programs to accomplish the purposes of TANF.

These are:

  • assisting needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes
  • reducing the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage
  • preventing out-of-wedlock pregnancies
  • encouraging the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.


The TANF Bureau is comprised of the following divisions:

Division of State TANF Policy. The Division drafts regulations and provides policy and guidance for the TANF programs operated by States, DC, and the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.  It assesses plans and amendments.  The Division also evaluates operations to determine compliance with program requirements and provides advice on penalty actions to be taken, including corrective action plans designed to remedy operational deficiencies.  Further, Division provides technical assistance to grantees and information to the public on these topics.

Division of State and Territory TANF Management. The Division is responsible for providing technical assistance to States, Territories, localities, and community groups. The Division also oversees the implementation of the Healthy Marriage and Promoting Responsible Fatherhood programs authorized by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

Division of Data Collection and Analysis. The Division is responsible for all aspects of the collection, compilation, analysis, and dissemination of statistical and financial data on the TANF program and the Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled programs in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Division of Tribal TANF Management. The Division is responsible for providing program guidance and technical assistance to:

  1. federally recognized American Indian tribes and certain statutorily identified Alaska Native entities in development, implementation, and administration of tribal TANF programs,
  2. federally recognized tribes and tribal organizations in implementation and administration of Native Employment Works (NEW) programs,
  3. federally recognized tribes and tribal organizations in implementation and administration of  Tribal TANF - Child Welfare Coordination projects and, where appropriate, providing general and specific information, guidance, and technical assistance to tribes and state and federal agencies on issues relating to these programs, related legislation and other initiatives affecting these programs.

TANF Bureau Regional Program Units. The Program Units provide program and technical administration of the TANF block grant and collaborate with ACF, States and other grantees.

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