Authored By: OK DHS
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federally-funded program for children deprived of support because of a parent’s death, incapacity, absence or unemployment.
Cash assistance is available to the family on a time-limited basis through TANF. The purpose of this federal program is to provide temporary support in meeting basic needs, training leading to employment, employment services and childcare assistance for qualified families with children.
Applicants must meet both state and federal guidelines for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Individuals who apply for TANF must meet the monetary and non-monetary state guidelines, complete work-related activities, provide paternity information about the children in the household and report as required by the state.
Oklahoma residents who qualify for welfare are required to furnish information such as citizenship, income, resources, and age. Only household members who are eligible can receive Oklahoma welfare benefits. Read on for more information about applying for TANF. If you have additional questions or issues about this program, then contact TANF Oklahoma.
HOW DOES A FAMILY QUALIFY FOR TANF?
Oklahoma's TANF eligibility rules do not at the present adequately support work, protect children, or promote self-sufficiency, because income limits are too low and restrictions too great for most working families to qualify for benefits. Eligibility for TANF cash assistance is determined by evaluating specific nonfinancial and financial criteria established by federal and State regulations.
Families and individuals must also meet the following financial criteria:
- Assets must be less than $1,000
- Countable income (earned or unearned), which is determined by allowing the appropriate income disregards, cannot exceed the income standards for the family size requesting assistance and
- The right to any child support payments must be assigned to the State
Families and individuals must meet the following nonfinancial criteria:
- Age limitations (family must have dependent children under the age of 19 only)
- Minor living with a specified caretaker relative as a dependent child
- Individual must be a resident of Oklahoma
- Furnishing a social security number
- Residency (intending to reside in the State) requirements
- Citizenship/alien status requirements
- Complying with all work requirements
Below is a summary and discussion of the major rules that particularly affect participation in Oklahoma.
TANF INCOME ELIGIBILITY
Families must meet both a gross and net income test to be eligible in Oklahoma. The monthly maximum TANF gross income for eligibility is $1,193 for a family of 3. If the family meets the gross income test, States may choose to not count , or "disregard," some income toward the TANF net income test. This increases the number of eligible families and the amount of cash assistance provided. The most important of these disregards encourages TANF adults to work by subtracting a part of earnings from gross income to determine whether a family is eligible and the amount of its benefit. Oklahoma disregards the first $240 and 50% of remaining monthly earned income. Several States disregard considerably more (up to 100%) earned income in the first months of receiving TANF so families can achieve employment and economic stability.
TANF WORK REQUIREMENTS
Federal law requires that half of the families receiving assistance under TANF must be engaged in some kind of work-related activity for at least 30 hours a week (or 20 hours a week for single-parents with young children). States must have a higher share of two-parent families — 90 percent— engaged in work, generally for 35 hours per week.) Oklahoma follows the federal standard.
Families in Oklahoma on TANF must assign their right to receive child support to the government as a condition of receiving cash assistance. As long as the family remains on TANF, any child support collected on behalf of the family is kept by the government as reimbursement for TANF benefits. States can choose to count all child support payments as income or can disregard a portion as pass-through to the families. Fifteen States pass more than $50 through. Oklahoma is among only 10 States that do not have complete or partial pass through of child support.
If Oklahoma adopted a $100 pass-through and disregarded $200 as income, custodial parents would receive $300 more per month and be much more likely to move toward self-sufficiency. A $100/$200 pass-through and disregard would provide a greater incentive for custodial parents to seek child support and for nonresident parents to pay child support because more child support would go to the family. As a result of this incentive, child support collections could increase, which would increase the benefits of the policy change to custodial families and decrease the costs to government (Wheaton 2007).
Oklahoma's child support enforcement has a significant impact on caseload but has not collected support payments on a par with national results. In 2009, Oklahoma closed over 4% of cases due to clients' failure to cooperate with child support enforcement. Only Iowa closes more cases for this reason. This policy has not necessarily contributed to better child support results. In Oklahoma, 7% of TANF families received child support in 2009, compared to 9% nationally. Oklahoma child support receipts were higher however, with an average of $304 monthly in Oklahoma and $228 nationally (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2010). On average, OKDHS collects approximately $2 million in child support annually from parents whose children receive TANF assistance, amounting to just 1% of annual TANF spending.
Most States deny TANF benefits to income-eligible families if they have more assets than allowed by State limits. The average asset limit set by States is in the $2,000-$3,000 range and Oklahoma falls slightly below this range at $1,000. Like most States, Oklahoma also has a vehicle exemption which is set at a flat $5,000 based on the equity value with no special stipulations. Oklahoma’s asset limit is established in State statute. Oklahoma has been a national example in removing asset limits from other assistance programs. Oklahoma does not have asset limits on its Medicaid or SNAP programs. Asset limits may harm the goal of self-sufficiency by denying TANF families the opportunity to set aside reserves they will need after they stop receiving TANF benefits.
IMPACT OF ELIGIBILITY RESTRICTIONS AND FAMILY TYPE
Oklahoma’s strict eligibility guidelines have resulted in fewer TANF applications over time and a smaller share of of applications being approved, as shown in Table 3. In the past 8 years, while the number of poor families with children has increased, the number of TANF applications has fallen, and the number of new cases has been cut in half. Another layer to TANF’s complexity are the types of family situations that can qualify for benefits based on current living arrangement which are divided into parental cases versus child-only cases:
In these families children and at least one parent live together and all receive TANF benefits. These type of cases are made up of the following:
- Single-parent families
- Teen-parent families, which require the family to live under adult supervision, and
- Two-parent families, of which Oklahoma has none, because many exceed the maximum income level and because they are subject to stringent work requirements
We call this type of case "working-parent families" in this analysis.
These are cases where a child is eligible for TANF but adults in the household are not. These families are:
- Child-only cases living with parents: The most common reason is that the parent receives Supplemental Security Income due to a disability. Other parental child-only cases result from the parent losing eligibility because of time limits, sanctions, or immigration policy (Gibbs 2004). In Oklahoma there are few cases of this type since time limits and sanctions apply to the full family including children
- Non-parental cases: These families include children eligible for TANF who live with an adult other than a parent, most commonly a grandparent. This may be a temporary arrangement where the child lives with a grandparent
WHAT DOES A TANF FAMILY RECEIVE?
Families that meet all eligibility requirements may qualify for cash assistance. If adults are subject to work requirements, they may receive work and other supports.
Cash Assistance For Working Parent Families
States set a maximum benefit for different types of families. Oklahoma’s maximum benefit is much lower than the national median. The maximum TANF benefit for an Oklahoma family is less than 20% of the federal poverty level.
Families with any significant income receive an even smaller benefit, which makes it very difficult for poor working –parent families to keep participating. In fact, the maximum earnings for which she could claim any TANF benefit is less than a third of the cost of supporting a family of three in Oklahoma at the self-sufficiency standard.
The maximum TANF benefit for an Oklahoma family is less than 20% of the federal poverty level. Because many families have earnings or other income, the average benefit for an Oklahoma family with two children is just $185 monthly, compared to a national average of $408 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2010). Oklahoma’s benefit for a single-parent family of 3 has fallen from $307 to $210, adjusted for inflation, since 1996.
TANF And Other Financial Assistance
Most Oklahoma TANF families also qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. However, Oklahoma ranked as the 14th lowest State with combined value of SNAP/TANF payments which makes up barely half of the federal poverty level. TANF and SNAP together are only slightly higher than the rent for a 2-bedroom apartment.
OKLAHOMA EMPLOYMENT SEARCH
Part of the requirement, while on the TANF program, is finding a job to help sustain your financial needs. Oklahoma provides an online job site for you to search for employment. You can view the job site by clicking here.
Visit your local OKDHS Office to apply http://www.okdhs.org/countyoffices/Pages/default.aspx