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An Overview of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Public Housing Authorities

Authored By: Georgia Legal Services Program® LSC Funded

Information

An Overview of Temporary Assistance to
Needy Families and Public Housing Authorities

Nancy Lindbloom
Georgia Legal Services Program
Last Revised: August 2002

Q: What is the focus of the TANF program?

In 1996 Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. This act abolished the old welfare entitlement program Aid to Families with Dependant Children (AFDC), and created a new block grant program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Under TANF, you no longer get a check for an indefinite period of time.

The major aspects of TANF:

Lifetime Time Limit: In Georgia, families that include an adult in the grant have a lifetime limit of 48 months (4 years) in which they can receive benefits. The time limit began in January 1997. So, the first families reach the time limit in January 2001.
* Parents living in the same household as their children will automatically be included in the TANF grant with their children. This means that the lifetime limit will run against the adult and the children in the unit.
* Grandparents, aunts, and other non-parental relatives can choose to be in the TANF grant or not.

EXAMPLE:
Lillie Brown has been raising her 2 nieces , and applies for TANF. If she chooses to be in the TANF grant with her 2 nieces:
1. She'll receive up to the maximum of $280 a month
2. She will be required to sign a personal work plan (PWP)
3. The 48 month lifetime time limit applies

If she chooses not to be in the TANF grant with her nieces:
1. She will receive up to a maximum of $235 a month in TANF benefits on their behalf
2. She will not be required to sign a person work plan (PWP) or engage in work activities
3. There is no lifetime time limit on benefits. It is a child only grant.
* Grandparents, aunts, and other non-parent guardians may also choose to opt out of the TANF grant at any time.
Work Requirements: All TANF parents must engage in work activities. However, a recipient may be able to get exempt status if he/she has a child under the age of one.
* Adults are not included in the TANF grant with the children are not subject to the work activity requirement. Work requirements do not apply to children only grants.
* The work requirements are set out in the Personal Work Plan (PWP).

Support Services: Support Services are available to applicants for TANF, recipients of TANF, and transitional families coming off TANF and going to work. These services assist individuals in moving from cash assistance to self-sufficiency and allow recipients to get and keep a job.
* Services include, child care, transportation, medical services, reimbursements for required job uniforms. All TANF recipients should make sure they ask their case manager about the availability of services.
* Other services that are necessary to keep the recipient employed or on the track to employment may be provided if pre-approved by your case manager and the local Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).

Personal Responsibility Agreements: These agreements include requirements such as: insuring that your children go to school, getting preschool immunizations, etc.
"Two strikes and your off" Sanctions: In Georgia, if you do not comply with your PWP or PRP, and you don't have "good cause" or a good reason, then for the 1st sanction or penalty, your TANF benefits are reduced by 25% for 3 months. For a 2nd sanction the entire family is cut off of TANF permanently. You have a right to request a hearing to challenge the sanctions, but must do so within 30 days.

Q: How many individuals receive TANF in Georgia? What do we know about them?

Since the new TANF program began in 1997, the number of families have been reduced by 53.8 percent. That means approximately 61, 994 families are no longer receiving assistance. As of February 2000, the total number of families receiving TANF benefits is 53,171. It is estimated that 65 percent of those who left the welfare rolls, left by reason of employment. It is not know what happened to the remaining 35-40%.

The average TANF family size receiving benefits is three (mother and 2 children). The average monthly payment for a family of three is $223, with the maximum a family receives set at $280.

Public Housing Authorities

Q: What is the Section 8 Housing Program?
The Section 8 Housing Program is a federally funded program that is governed by state law and local governments. The purpose of this program is to provide safe and affordable housing to very low and low income individuals and families in the private market. Specifically the program provides subsidy payments in the forms of certificates or vouchers to qualified private landlords.
Those individuals whose income does not exceed 50% of the area median income are eligible to participate in the Section 8 Housing Program. For information contact the toll free general information number at 1-877-495-9189.

Q: What are Prosperity Vouchers and who is eligible?
Prosperity Vouchers provide Section 8 Housing to families that fall in one of the following four categories:
* families that are currently receiving TANF
* families that have received TANF during the preceding 24 months * families that were eligible to receive TANF during the previous 24 months but were provided with another source of assistance
* families who would have been eligible to receive TANF in the previous 24 months bud did not submit an application

Once a family receives a voucher the family is able to continue receiving TANF assistance, however, the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) is responsible for reporting back to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) on the family's progress with respect to job employment and self-sufficiency. The program is designed to assist TANF recipients in making the transition from welfare to work, and simultaneously providing a means in which recipients can obtain safe, decent, and affordable housing.

There are 2,000 vouchers available for use between January and December 2000. DCA distributes these vouchers among its five regional offices and PHA's. For questions on how to receive an application please contact the local DCA or housing authority that serves your county.

Q: What is public housing?
Public housing is subsidized housing, other than Section 8 housing, available to low and very low income households. Public housing is run by local PHAs in accordance with state law. Additionally, it includes units in a mixed finance project that are assisted by PHA capital or operating assistance.

Q: How many individuals live in Section 8 or public housing and receive TANF benefits?
According to HUD data, between 1996-1997 well over 50% of those tenants residing in public housing who are not elderly or disabled receive welfare benefits. There are 1.2 million occupied public housing units, in which the elderly compose 380,000 of that amount, and the disabled 186,000. The remaining 630,000 units are headed by family members who are either not elderly or disabled, and 278,000 of those units actually receive welfare benefits. Due to inaccurate data and reporting, there is no information available for 300,000 units, however, HUD proposes that an additional 75,000 units receive welfare.

In Section 8 housing there are approximately 1.25 million occupied units, and about 825,000 are studio or one-bedroom units primarily designated for the elderly or disabled. Roughly 450,000 units are available for families with children, and approximately 350,000 actually occupy Section 8 housing. Of the 350,000 families with children occupying the units, HUD data reports that 250, 000 are welfare recipients.

Q: Can my public housing rent increase or decrease if I am receiving TANF?
Prior to 1996 the law allowed DFCS offices to include housing subsidies as income to the extent that they provided double benefits to the recipient. This would have the affect of increasing a tenant's rent who paid based on income. However, with the enactment of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act welfare agencies are prohibited from engaging in this practice.

Furthermore, the Brooke Amendment forbids housing authorities from requiring tenants to pay more than 30% of their income for monthly rental payments.
Individuals who pay income based rent and who experienced a decrease in TANF income, by reason other than a sanction, should immediately report the decrease in income to the PHA so that the amount of rent an individual pays reflects the financial circumstances of the family.

EXAMPLES
Lifetime time limits:
Mary Jones has two children (ages 3 & 5) and lives in public housing. Since she lives with her children, therefore she must be included in the TANF grant. The family may receive the maximum amount of $280 per month for a family of three for three years. The 48 month lifetime time limit applies to them. So, they have 12 months of TANF remaining.

Requirements
If Ms. Jones does not have a child under the age of one and is not physically or mentally incapacitated, she must engage in work activities. Since she is a resident of public housing she must also satisfy the community service requirement. However, since she is engaged in work activities under TANF she is exempt from having to perform the PH community service requirement.

Support Services from DFCS
Ms. Jones has gotten a job at a local office with a weekly income of $200 per week. Ms. Jones is without a car and is required to wear a uniform to work. Since transportation and clothing are necessary for her to maintain employment she is eligible for the support services available from DFCS. She may qualify for a $195.00 transportation allowance and reimbursement for her work uniform. Transitional child care should also be available from the local DFCS office.

Work Incentives
In addition to receiving TANF, Ms. Jones is a public housing resident and pays rent based on her annual income. While her annual income will increase $200 per week, her amount of monthly rent will not increase. PHA's exclude (do not count) 100% of employment income for 12 months under the earned income disregard. This exclusion helps recipients overcome obstacles they may face in making the transition from TANF to work.

Nancy Lindbloom
Georgia Legal Services Program
Last Revised: August 2002


Last Review and Update: Aug 01, 2002