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November 2012Vol. 13, No. 10State Approaches to TANF Block Grants

The Urban Institute recently published a report on the varying ways in which States have used funding from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. The report provides an indepth examination of the TANF programs from a selection of States and documents their similarities and differences. The report also looks at how the programs have responded to changing Federal regulations implemented since TANF's inception in 1997. Finally, the report examines the various ways in which States are spending TANF block grant monies and places particular emphasis on the transfer of TANF funds to child welfare services. 

Researchers examined the TANF programs in California, Florida, Michigan, Texas, and Washington. The target States were selected for their diversity, size, and the availability of past research on their respective TANF programs. The report methodology combined information from analyses of State-reported data, details on relevant State policy choices, and phone interviews with key State-level employees involved with each TANF program. 

Regarding State spending of grant monies, the authors note that funding transfers to child welfare services is one of the most commonly implemented examples of a TANF funding shift. However, there is considerable variation across States in the proportion of child welfare spending that is made up of TANF dollars in any given year, as well as changes over time within each State. The report notes that the proportion of TANF dollars allocated to State child welfare services each year can be explained by child welfare needs, Federal child welfare funding, and TANF funding. The report also provides information on context, history, and the advantages and disadvantages of reallocating TANF funds for child welfare services.  

The full report, State Approaches to the TANF Block Grant: Welfare Is Not What You Think It Is, is available on the Urban Institute website: (486 KB)