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 2018.

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:  

Changes to RESET Sanction Policy

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down Act 80 of 2012. Therefore, the Road to Economic Self-Sufficiency through Employment and Training (RESET) sanctions for failure to comply with RESET requirements revert back to pre-Act 80 policy:

A mandatory RESET participant who willfully fails to cooperate with the work or work activity requirement, participate in RESET or accept a bona fide offer of employment, or who terminates employment, or fails to apply for work, without good cause, shall be disqualified from receiving cash assistance.

The period of the sanction is:


First occurrence:30 days or until the individual is willing to comply with RESET, whichever is longer.
Second occurrence:60 days or until the individual is willing to comply with RESET, whichever is longer.
Third occurrence:Permanently.


If the reason for sanction occurs in the first 24 months, the sanction applies only to the individual. If the reason for the sanction occurs after the first 24 months, the sanction applies to the entire budget group. In lieu of the sanctions set forth above, if an employed individual voluntarily, without good cause, reduces his earnings by not fulfilling the minimum work requirement, the cash grant is reduced by the dollar value of the income that would have been earned if the individual would have fulfilled his minimum hourly work requirement, until the minimum hourly work requirement is met.

Removal of the TANF Rapid Re-housing (RRH) program

The RRH program was a pilot program that has since ended.


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:

Ms. Cathy Buhrig
Director, Bureau of Policy
Room 427 Health and Welfare Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120
Telephone (717) 787-4081 

Comments may also be submitted by email to:



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 2018. 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 2018. 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 2019 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 15, 2018.