Brief Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Caseloads Early in the Pandemic
Experiences Varied by State
Eleanor Pratt, Heather Hahn
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This brief explores changes in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) caseloads during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. We examine changes to the national and state caseloads by calculating percent changes since before the pandemic began in February 2020. Overall, we find that the national caseload rose in the early months of the pandemic, peaking in June 2020, but fell below prepandemic levels by October 2020. Within the national caseload, state TANF caseload changes varied widely. In October 2020, caseloads ranged from 63 percent larger than prepandemic levels in Hawaii to 31 percent smaller in Mississippi. Between May 2020 and November 2020, most states’ caseloads differed from their February 2020 caseloads by no more or less than 10 percent. We also discuss the broader context that informs state caseload changes, including structural components of TANF that make it unlikely to respond to increased need, differential access to cash assistance by state, and states’ pandemic-related policy changes.

Research Areas Social safety net
Tags Assistance for women and children Families with low incomes From Safety Net to Solid Ground Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Welfare and safety net programs
Policy Centers Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population
Research Methods Data analysis