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Amidst the worst downturn since the Great Depression, Congress included the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund in the 2009 Recovery Act to help states cover the costs of providing more assistance to low-income families suffering from the ill effects of the downturn.  The Fund provided $5 billion over two years for increased state or federal TANF spending in three categories of aid to TANF-eligible families with children:  (1) basic assistance, (2) non-recurrent, short-term (or emergency) benefits, and (3) subsidized employment. 

The fund expired on September 30, 2010.  Some 39 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and eight Tribal TANF programs received approval to use $1.3 billion from the fund to create new subsidized employment programs or expand existing ones.  The remaining $3.7 billion in the fund was approved to cover increased costs associated with providing basic assistance and non-recurrent, short-term benefits, such as assistance to avoid eviction and potential homelessness.  

This paper presents the results of a telephone survey of the subsidized employment programs funded all or in part with funds from the TANF EF, conducted by staff from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) during the summer and fall of 2010. 

The paper concludes by highlighting the following lessons that can be drawn from states’ experiences:

  • It is possible (though challenging) to get large-scale, countercyclical job creation programs up and running relatively quickly and to engage the private sector in creating job opportunities.
  • Subsidized jobs targeted to disadvantaged individuals benefit not only participating workers and businesses but also entire communities and society at large.
  • Flexibility makes success possible in many different environments.
  • New targeted funding can provide the catalyst for innovation and increased collaboration.
  • Subsidized employment programs can be implemented at reasonable cost.
  • Subsidized employment programs serve a variety of purposes; their performance should be judged on measures that are consistent with their purpose.
LaDonna Pavetti, Ph.D., Liz Schott and Elizabeth Lower-Basch
Center on Budget Policies and Priorities; Center on Law and Social Policy

Virtually all states have made basic program information on the five main state-administered low-income benefit programs — SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps), Medicaid, CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), and child care assistance — available to the public via the Internet. Many states, however, go much further, providing information such as application forms and data on the number of participants. A number of states allow individuals to apply for benefits and transact certain related business online. In addition to information provided for the five main state-administered low-income benefit programs, thirty states have General Assistance (GA) programs for individuals not qualifying for any other public assistance, and provide basic program information for GA online as well.

This paper provides links to state information available online for these benefit programs. Individuals seeking information about eligibility and benefits in a particular state will find these links a useful place to start. Most state human service agencies also provide phone numbers for families to seek additional information. In addition, individuals in most states (as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) can call 2-1-1 on any type of telephone for help finding out about many kinds of assistance, including emergency help with food, housing, or clothing, physical or mental health treatment, and assistance for the aged, people with disabilities, and families with children.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The Welfare Rules Database provides a comprehensive, sophisticated resource for anyone comparing cash assistance programs between states, researching changes in cash assistance rules within a single state, or simply looking for the most up-to-date information on the rules governing cash assistance in one state.

The Welfare Rules Database includes:

  • A detailed database of AFDC/TANF rules in effect for all 50 states and the District of Columbia by state for years 1996 through 2010.
  • Information on rules that are in effect at a point in time (not proposals or legislation). Caseworker manuals are used to identify program rules. State administrators review the entries for each state to assure accuracy.
  • A point-and-click interface for querying the database. While the search engine is easy to use, state cash assistance programs are complex. Please review the Users Guide and Data Dictionary to help you effectively frame the question you want to answer.
  • The standard rule that affects most of a the caseload for most of the year. The standard rule is available by state, year, and category of rule.
  • Variations to the standard rule. This information details differences across geographic areas within a state, groups of recipients within a state, or months of the year.
David Kassabian, Tracy Vericker, David Searle, and Mary Murphy
Urban Institute

Overview of a number of federal workforce development policies, including WIA titles I and II, Pell, TAA, TANF, Wagnery-Peyser, Perkins, and FSET.

The Workforce Alliance

This brief explains how the final rules implementing changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program affect recipients’ access to education and training.

Elizabeth Lower-Basch
Center for Law and Social Policy