Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Update on Families Served and Work Participation

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office, GAO-11-880T, September 8, 2011

From the summary:
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, created in 1996, is one of the key federal funding streams provided to states to assist low-income families. A critical aspect of TANF has been its focus on employment and self-sufficiency, and the primary means to measure state efforts in this area has been TANF’s work participation requirements. When the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) reauthorized TANF, it also made changes that were generally expected to strengthen these work requirements. Given the impending extension or reauthorization of TANF, this testimony primarily draws on previous GAO work to focus on (1) how the welfare caseload and related spending have changed since TANF was created and (2) how states have met work participation rates since DRA. To address these issues, in work conducted from August 2009 to May 2010, GAO analyzed state data reported to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); surveyed state TANF administrators in 50 states and the District of Columbia; conducted site visits to Florida, Ohio, and Oregon, selected to provide geographic diversity and variation in TANF program characteristics; and reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and research. In July 2011, GAO updated this work by analyzing state data reported to HHS since that time. In addition, GAO gathered information on caseload changes through its forthcoming work on TANF child-only cases.

Between fiscal years 1997 and 2008, the total number of families receiving welfare cash assistance decreased by almost 50 percent. At the same time, there have also been changes in the types of families receiving cash assistance. Specifically, child-only cases–in which the children alone receive benefits–increased from about 35 percent of the overall TANF caseload in 2000 to about half in 2008.

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