Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the nation's cash assistance program for poor families with children, has not played much of a countercyclical role during the current recession. As unemployment has risen, TANF caseloads nationally have grown much more slowly and state TANF caseloads have not tracked state unemployment growth. Program rules and financing structures limit the responsiveness of TANF in a downturn. As TANF reauthorization is considered, this brief details some relatively small changes that could improve the program's effectiveness in future recessions.
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