Brief State TANF Policies During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Work Requirements, Time Limits, and the Treatment of UI Income
Katie Shantz, Linda Giannarelli, Ilham Dehry, Sarah Knowles, Sarah Minton
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The COVID-19 pandemic created sudden and substantial hardships for many families with low incomes and created unprecedented challenges for the operation of benefit programs. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is the primary program that provides cash aid to families in need. TANF is a block grant: the federal government provides each state with a set amount of money that the state combines with its own funding to meet the program’s goals. Each state establishes its own policies for who can get help, how much they receive, and for how long. Although no TANF policy changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were mandated at the federal level, statescould use the TANF program’s existing flexibility to modify their policies to help meet the changing needs of families during the pandemic.

This brief provides a graphical overview of selected TANF policy changes states made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes information about changes to work and activity requirements, sanctions, time limits, and treatment of unemployment insurance benefits. It is a companion to the 2020 Welfare Rules Databook, which provides more details on standard state-by-state TANF policy variations. Both this brief and the databook are derived from information in the full Welfare Rules Database, publicly available at

Research Areas Social safety net
Tags Families with low incomes Poverty State programs, budgets Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Welfare and safety net programs
Policy Centers Income and Benefits Policy Center
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