What is TANF?
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a program for low income families with children. It provides cash benefits each month, and may also help you pay high housing costs. TANF is funded by the federal government, but each state sets up a program with rules specific to that state. This article only applies to TANF in Maine.
Who is eligible for TANF?
The TANF rules changed in 2017. Before the rule change, a child had to be 'deprived' of the support of a parent to qualify for benefits. This isn't true anymore. Many more two-parent families are now eligible for TANF.
Most adults who receive TANF must participate in ASPIRE - a work training and education program run by Fedcap. An eligible parent who wants to attend college or other post-secondary school can get the same benefits, plus support services, through the Parents as Scholars (PaS) Program.
Am I eligible for TANF?
We have put together a very simple screening tool for TANF eligibility. It's only an estimator - it won't be able to tell you if you are definitely eligible, or how much you might get in monthly benefits. But it can give you an idea about whether or not you meet some of the basic qaulifications, and whether you should fill out a full application for benefits. To go through the full screening process, visit the My Maine Connection Portal.
To complete this screener you will need this information:
- Household size (how many people live with you, who you share living expenses like childcare or groceries with)
- Gross monthly income (money you or your household members get each month from things like work, unemployment, child support, etc.)
- Housing cost (like monthly rent, mortgage, etc.)
How does this screener work?
The screener uses the first of two formal eligibility tests for TANF. This first test is called the 'gross income test.' If you pass the first test, it's likely you will be eligible for TANF benefits.
Remember, this is just part of the test for TANF eligibility! This tool is meant as an easy way to help you figure out if you should apply for benefits.
Here are the rules of the first test:
- If you don't have children, you aren't eligible for TANF - but you might be eligible for other benefits.
- If your housing costs take up more than half of your gross monthly income, you can have a slightly higher income than usual and still be eligible. This would be the case if your household gross income is $1000 per month, and your rent is $650. There is a separate chart to follow if this is your situation.
- Don't count SSI benefits toward your gross income)
- You need to compare the number of people in your household to your gross income.
- Don't count SSI benefits toward your gross income
- Don't count people who get SSI benefits in your household. For example, if there are three people in your household, and one of them gets SSI, then for this test there are only two people in your household.
- If you get $50 or more in child support each month, subtract $50 from your gross income. Even if you get more than $50, the rules only let you subtract the first $50 from your income. If you get child support each month, but it is less than $50, subtract the actual amount of support from your gross income.
- If your gross income, after taking out SSI and child support if necessary, is at or lower than the number in the chart for your family size, you are probably eligibile for TANF.
Standard Gross Income Chart
|Number in Household||Gross Income|
|Each additional person||+ $262|
Gross Income Chart Where Housing Costs 50% or More of Gross Income
|Number in Household||Gross Income|
|Each additional person||+ $189|
How can I learn more and apply for benefits?
If you need to apply for TANF or other public benefits, you can use the My Maine Connection Portal. This portal is run by the state of Maine. You can learn about benefits, apply online, or fill out a much more detailed screener to see if you qualify for TANF or other benefits.
If you want to learn more about TANF, or if you have other questions about the program, Maine Equal Justice Partners have a lot of information about TANF and ASPIRE.
We also have some other articles that may be helpful:
Published June, 2018