The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program gives temporary financial help to pregnant women and families with one or more dependent children. The program is meant to help families as they become financially stable.
TANF gives cash to help pay for:
- Other expenses (but not medical)
Types of grants and "units"
The TANF program will give temporary financial help to the following:
- Child-only grants
- Parent or relative with children grants
- Crisis assistance
A group of people getting a grant is called a "unit."
Children can get TANF if they are living with a parent or relative. The adults in the assistance unit won’t get TANF if they do not want to be included in the unit. Rules about time limits and work requirements don’t apply if only the child gets TANF. But the families still must follow the rules for child support enforcement.
Children must live with caretaker relatives to get TANF. Caretaker relatives include those people who are related to the child by:
Children who are living with non-relative caretakers can’t get TANF. But they might be able to get cash help under the Transitional or General Assistance Program.
Parent or relative with children grants
Families with children can get TANF if at least one adult participates in or is exempt from work activities.
You can get cash assistance if your family is in crisis. Any of the following is a crisis:
- Homelessness (or in danger of becoming homeless) because of:
- Fire, flood or another natural disaster
- An eviction or court order to vacate the home for any reason
- Physical abuse by a person who still occupies the house
- Your family needs food, furniture, clothing, or household supplies because of a fire, flood, or other natural disasters; or
- Your family cannot buy food or needs clothing because of lost or stolen cash.
You can find information on crisis assistance allowances in the Crisis Assistance Table.
- You can apply for benefits through TANF if you are a U.S. citizen living in Illinois, and one of the following apply:
- You are pregnant (your spouse can also get benefits if the spouse lives with you);
- You have a child under age 18 who lives with you. If your child is 19 and lives with you, the child must be a full-time high school student;
- You are one of only two adults who take care of the children in the household;
- You are under 18 years old, you have a child, and you and your child live with your parent, a legal guardian or an adult relative; or
- You are a parent who is a ward of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and you live in an adult-supervised arrangement as part of the DCFS Independent Living Program.
Even if you are homeless, you may qualify for TANF. Some non-citizens can also get TANF.
There are non-financial requirements for getting TANF, including:
- You must have a valid Social Security Number (SSN) or have proof that you have applied for one;
- You and your family must live in Illinois. A permanent address is not required;
- You must be a blood relative, step-relatives, adoptive relative or spouse of the blood relative of the dependent child. You must have primary responsibility for the care and supervision of the child. Temporary absence from the home does not affect you or the child’s eligibility for TANF; and
- You cannot be on strike.
Some people don’t need a valid SSN, including:
- Persons requesting or receiving help from the Moms and Babies Program
- Newborns requesting or receiving assistance when they live with their mother who was Medicaid eligible when they were born
- Noncitizen children under age 19 who have certain nonimmigrant visas or do not have any immigration documents and are requesting or receiving Family Health Plans
DHS looks at your income to find out if you can get TANF and how much your payment will be. DHS will not look at any assets other than income.
DHS looks at your gross earned income and subtracts $90. Then, DHS adds all non-exempt unearned income. This amount is compared to the right payment level for the unit. If your income is more than the payment level, you can’t get TANF.
Stepparent or grandparent income
Income of a step-parent who lives with the unit is included in the unit. This is true even if the step-parent is not part of the unit. The TANF unit’s payment is lowered by a part of the step-parent’s income. The same goes for income of sponsors of non-citizens.
The following types of income do not count towards TANF eligibility:
- Non-cash gifts
- Someone pays your bills directly to the company
- Loans from a person who is not your relative
- SNAP benefits
- Relocation assistance
- Volunteer in Service to America stipend
- Social security death benefits
- Supportive service payments
- Up to $50 of small income every three months
- General Assistance payments to vendors or for children with disabilities
- Disaster relief payment made by federal, state, or local government or by a disaster assistance group
- Child support payments someone gets to support a child not included in the assistance unit
- Earnings of minor students who receive assistance and who do not work full-time
- The first $50 of child support each month
Eligibility for non-citizens
- You can get TANF if you are a non-citizen and any of the following applies to you:
- You were legally admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence before August 22, 1996;
- You were legally admitted for permanent residence on or after August 22, 1996, and you have lived in the US for five years;
- You are a refugee or an asylee;
- You are a parolee of at least one year who entered the US before August 22, 1996; or
- You are a parolee of at least one year who entered the US on or after August 22, 1996, and you have lived here for five years.
Updated: September 2017