Welfare Indicators and Risk Factors: Thirteenth Report to Congress. Data Issues Relating to the TANF Program and the AFDC-TANF Transition


States had the option of beginning their TANF programs as soon as PRWORA was enacted in August 1996, and a few states began TANF programs as early as September 1996. All states were required to implement TANF by July 1, 1997. Because states implemented TANF at different times, the FY 1997 data reflect a combination of the AFDC and TANF programs. In some states, limited data are available for FY 1997 because states were given a transition period of six months after they implemented TANF before they were required to report data on the characteristics and work activities of TANF participants.

Because of the greatly expanded range of activities allowed under TANF, a substantial portion of TANF funds are being spent on activities other than cash payments to families. Table TANF 4 in this Appendix which tracks overall expenditure trends includes only those TANF funds spent on “cash and work-based assistance” and “administrative costs,” not on work activities, supportive services, or other allowable uses of funds. Spending on these other activities is detailed in Table TANF 5. Note that TANF administrative costs include funds spent administering all activities, not just cash and work-based assistance. (Administrative costs under AFDC had included a small amount of funds for administering AFDC child care programs; such programs, and the costs of administering them, were transferred to the Child Care and Development Fund as part of PRWORA.)

There also is potential for discontinuity between the AFDC and the TANF caseload figures. For example, under TANF there is no longer a separate “Unemployed Parent” (UP) program, as there was under AFDC. While a separate work participation rate is calculated for two-parent families, this population is not identical to the UP caseload under AFDC. It also is possible that a limited number of families will be considered recipients of TANF assistance, even if they do not receive a monthly cash benefit. The vast majority of families receiving “assistance”21 are, in fact, receiving cash payments.

Another data issue concerns the treatment of families who receive cash and other forms of assistance under Separate State Programs (SSPs), funded by MOE dollars rather than federal TANF funds. Under TANF, some states use SSP programs to serve specific categories of families (e.g., two-parent families, families who have exhausted their time limits). From 1996-2005, such families were not subject to federal time limits. States did not have to include them in calculating of their work participation rates. As of October 2006, such families are included in the work participation rate calculation, but may still be excluded from the application of the federal time limits on receipt of assistance. Starting with the 2004 edition, this Indicators report adds recipients in SSPs into the caseload totals22 (the split between TANF and SSP caseloads is shown in Table TANF 3, nationally, and in Table TANF 15, by state). Native Americans served through state TANF and SSP programs are included in these caseload counts, but families served through TANF programs operated by Tribal governments are excluded. Expenditures for SSPs are shown in Table TANF 5.

21 States are allowed to use TANF funds on a variety of services, including employment and training services, domestic violence services, child care, transportation, and other support services. Families receiving such services, however, generally should not be counted as recipients of TANF “assistance.” Under the final regulations for TANF, “assistance” primarily includes payments directed at ongoing basic needs. It includes payments when individuals are participating in community service and work experience (or other work activities) as a condition of receiving payments (e.g., workfare). In addition, the definition also includes certain child care and transportation benefits when families are not employed. It excludes, however, such things as: non-recurrent, short-term benefits; services without a cash value, such as education and training, case management, job search, and counseling; and benefits such as child care and transportation when provided to employed families.

22 States began submitting caseload data on SSPs in FY 2000.

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