TANF and Moving to Independence

The Department of Human Services is dedicated to helping low-income families become independent while they receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, TANF, benefits. TANF is also referred to as cash assistance.

The TANF program provides money to help:

  • Pregnant women
  • Dependent children and their parents who live with them
  • Dependent children and other relatives who live with them and care for them

How to Apply:

Application for cash assistance, SNAP and Medical Assistance Benefits (English version)

Solicitud para recibir beneficios (Version Española)

If you need help completing the application form or need more information about benefits, trained workers at your county assistance office can help you.

Are You Eligible?

To be eligible for cash assistance/TANF, you must meet certain requirements. Workers at the county assistance office can provide more information on all of these requirements:

  • You must be a United States citizen and a resident of Pennsylvania. (Certain non-citizens lawfully admitted for permanent residence may be eligible.)
  • You and your family members must provide Social Security Numbers or apply for them.
  • You are required to look for a job or participate in an employment and training program. (Some people may be excused from the work requirements, for example, a person with a disability.)
  • You are required to help the caseworker complete an Agreement of Mutual Responsibility (AMR), which is a plan for what you will do so you no longer need cash assistance. The plan may include looking for work, attending a training program, or applying for Social Security benefits. You must sign the AMR and follow through with the plan.
  • If you want cash assistance for a dependent child, you must cooperate with paternity and child support requirements, unless you have a good cause for not not cooperating. Your child must be under age 18 or age 18 and a full-time student. Your child must live with you and you must care for the child. You must need support and care for the child as a result of at least one of these things:
    • Death of the child's parent;
    • Incapacity of the child's parent (such as a long illness);
    • Continued absence of a parent from your home; or
    • One or both parents with no income or low income from employment.
  • Your resources (things with cash value such as bank accounts, bonds or property that is not your primary/main residence) must have a value of $1,000 or less.
  • You must report all income from employment or from other sources including, but not limited to, child support, unemployment compensation, interest, Social Security benefits, or lottery winnings.

How long can I receive cash assistance?

You can receive cash assistance for 60 months (five years) total over the course of your lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions about cash assistance


 VIEW: TANF Infographic
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)  infographics that explains the general information about the program.


Temporary Assistance for Needy Families State Plan

Summary of Key Issues

As required by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, each state must submit a TANF state plan to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). State Plans may be amended at any time. The updated State Plan will be submitted to DHHS in December 2014.

The Following questions and answers highlight changes that have been made to Pennsylvania's TANF program:
What are the major changes in the new State Plan?Pennsylvania’s State Plan includes these changes:

Removal of Annual and Lifetime Limits for Contractor Referrals

As of March 2014, the annual and lifetime contractor referral limits were lifted from all Employment and Training (E&T) programs. To ensure that cash recipients engage in work and move themselves and their families off of cash assistance, E&T programs need to be kept available to help assist these individuals.

Changes to RESET Sanction Policy

Effective July 1, 2012, when a cash assistance recipient, mandatory for the Road to Economic Self-Sufficiency through Employment and Training (RESET), is determined to be willfully non-compliant with one or more RESET requirements, a sanction will be imposed as a first, second, or third-level sanction. No pre or post designation will be applied regardless of how long the recipient or budget group has received cash assistance. Sanctions do not apply to cash assistance recipients who meet good cause criteria or an exemption.

Updates to Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Transactions Policy

Section 4004 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 requires states to implement policies and procedures to prevent the use of TANF funds through electronic benefits transfers in liquor stores, casinos and adult-oriented entertainment establishments in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment. This act also requires states to establish policies which ensure recipients of assistance have access to using or withdrawing assistance with minimal fees or charges, including an opportunity to access assistance with no fees or charges; and are provided information on applicable fees and surcharges that apply to electronic fund transactions involving the assistance; and that such information is made publicly available.

How do I comment on the TANF State Plan? DHS invites public comment on all aspects of the TANF State Plan. Comments may be sent to:

Mr. Matthew J. McLees
Director, Bureau of Policy
Room 431 Health and Welfare Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120
Telephone (717) 787-4081

View the entire TANF State Plan.

TANF Caseload Reduction Reports

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services is required by federal regulation to submit the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Caseload Reduction Report (form ACF-202) in order to secure a caseload reduction credit.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) established mandatory work requirements and minimum annual work participation rate standards for States' TANF programs. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 reestablished work requirements. The minimum overall work participation rate is 50% in Fiscal Year 2017. This means that 50% of all families receiving TANF in Pennsylvania must meet work requirements. The minimum work participation rate for two-parent families is 90% in Fiscal Year 2017. This means that 90% of two-parent families receiving TANF in Pennsylvania must meet work requirements.

Federal regulations provide for a reduction in the minimum work participation rate standards if the state's average monthly assistance caseload decreased the previous year compared to the average monthly caseload in Fiscal Year 2005. The participation rate is reduced by the number of percentage points the caseload declined.

For this report to be complete, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services must provide appropriate opportunity for public comment on these estimates and methodologies used to calculate the Caseload Reduction Credit.

The Fiscal Year 2018 report will list relevant policy changes, excess MOE and the Reduction Credit calculation.

You may review the report here.

Public comments regarding the report may be submitted by email to Ra-oimcomments@pa.gov. The comment period ends December 18, 2017.