What to Know About Your TANF Application

TANF is designed to provide economic assistance and support services to families with children in need of financial aid. In order to benefit from TANF, you first need to apply. Submitting an application for government assistance can be an intimidating process. Going into it knowing what you need in advance can help you approach it with more confidence. In this article we will go over the steps necessary to determine eligibility and gather necessary documents.

How to Prepare for the TANF Application Process

Low-income families can benefit from a variety of assistance provided by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This program aims to help qualifying households get through financial hardships. In order to be eligible, applicants need to meet specific requirements set by the state they’re applying in. If you’re interested in applying to TANF, it’s helpful to know what factors your state agency is looking at. Furthermore, a major aspect of the process involves providing supporting documents for the following categories:

  • Documentation that Confirms Your Personal Information
  • Status of Citizenship or Residency
  • Income Level

Documentation that Confirms Your Personal Information

The primary goal of the program is to support families with children. Therefore, in order to qualify you must have at least one dependent in your household that’s under the age of 18. As the applicant, you need to verify the relationship between yourself and the dependent. Furthermore, TANF also requires documents that verify every household member’s information. With that being said, you can expect to provide one or more of the following:

  • Birth Certificates: This form can help prove the relationship between parent(s) and child.
  • Medical Documents: Personal health records can be used to prove the relationship between child and parent/guardian.
  • Legal Custody Papers: For non-biological parents or guardians, submitting legal paperwork can help verify the dependent-parent relationship.
  • School Records: One way to verify your children’s ages is by providing school records, like enrollment forms.
  • Tax Returns: Submitting a copy of a tax return where you claimed your child as one of your dependents is a valid form of documentation.

Bear in mind, the only way to confirm the actual documents you need is by confirming with your state agency directly. These are just some common documents!

Status of Citizenship and Residency

Another important factor to be considered for TANF is your citizenship status. In addition to meeting income requirements, you must also be a U.S citizen or eligible non-citizen. Valid identification documents like birth certificates or social security cards are typically used as proof of citizenship status. In addition to citizenship status, applicants also need to provide proof of address. This is because each TANF program is different based on the state it’s being operated in. For this reason, you need to verify that you live in the state you’re applying in. These documents need to be addressed to you and have your address clearly stated. Relevant documentation can include:

  • Social Security Card: Your Social Security verifies your ability to work in the United States.
  • Birth Certificate: Your birth certificate serves as a primary document proving your citizenship. This document can also be used to verify your identity.
  • Naturalized citizens: A Certificate of Naturalization proves that you have become your citizenship status through naturalization.
  • Paperwork from USCIS: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can provide you necessary documents that prove your eligible status.

Income Level

TANF places a big emphasis on low-income families getting assistance. It is to be expected that one factor for eligibility has to do with income. To qualify for assistance, your household’s income must fall below certain limits set by your state. These limits vary depending on family size and other factors. You can prove your income on the TANF application, by providing recent pay stubs, bank statements, or previous years tax returns.

Overall, you won’t know the exact documents that you’re going to need until you speak to someone from the TANF agency in your state. However, the information above should give you a good idea of what you can expect from the application process.

How to Spend Your TANF Benefits

The whole point of this program is to help families achieve financial stability. Budgeting wisely can play a key role in getting there. With that being said, some recommended ways to spend your cash assistance include:

  • Education: Pursuing an education can help open additional doors for you when it comes to a stable career.
  • Job Skill Training: Sometimes in order to find stable job opportunities, you need to learn necessary skills. Investing in improving your job skills can help secure your financial future long-term.
  • Needed Clothing for the Family: Everyone in the household needs comfortable clothes to wear. Children need appropriate clothes to wear to school.
  • Grocery Shopping: Having access to enough healthy food can improve the quality of life for you and your family.
  • Housing Expenses: Having a safe and stable place to live is incredibly important. This is why housing costs are first on this list. Making sure that your rent is paid, as well as your utility bills can ensure that your housing situation remains secure.


If you’re planning to apply to TANF, you need to know what to expect. If you’re prepared, you can go into the process confidently. Seeking government assistance can be intimidating if it’s not something you’ve done before. Luckily, your state agency is there to help you if you need it! Furthermore, the TANF agency in the state that you’re planning to apply in can provide the most accurate information.

When it comes to TANF, there are certain eligibility factors to keep in mind. Factors include citizenship status,  income level, and family status. Furthermore, there is quite a bit of paperwork that you might need to submit along with your application. This can include birth certificates, children’s school records, Social Security numbers, and more.  Lastly, if you’re able to receive TANF benefits, it is wise to use your monthly funds in responsible ways. You can use your funds to contribute to your family’s long-term success!