What should I know about Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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TANF benefits in Georgia


What is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families?

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a cash-assistance program for low-income families. In Georgia, families that include an adult in the grant can only get benefits for 48 months (4 years) over their lifetime.You can use your months consecutively or you may get benefits on and off for a total of 48 months.

  • 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.

  • Temporary extensions to the 48 month limit may be granted on a case-by-case basis. These extensions are called hardship waivers.


Who is eligible for TANF benefits?

To be eligible for TANF:

  • There must be a child younger than 18 in the family unit;

  • You must apply for and accept any other benefits that you might be eligible for, like:

    • Unemployment Compensation,

    • Workman’s Compensation,

    • Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI),

    • Child support.

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful resident alien;

  • A child must be “deprived” for one of the following reasons:

    • Continued absence from the home of at least one parent,

    • Physical or mental incapacity of at least one parent,

    • Death of a parent,

    • One parent in a two-parent family has a recent connection to the workforce.

  • All members of the family must have or apply for a Social Security number.

  • All school-aged children must attend school.

  • All preschool children must be immunized.

  • The family income and assets within TANF limits.

  • The family can only get assistance for 48 months. The limit may be extended if it is determined that an extension is justified. Extension are granted for to certain hardships, including: 

    • domestic violence and 

    • physical or mental incapacity.

  • The paternity of all children must be established when you apply for TANF.

  • All adults must participate in work activities or training for at least 30 hours a week.

  • You must cooperate with the Office of Child Support Services.

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What are my rights with TANF?

You have the right to TANF benefits if you are eligible. 


Support Services are available to: 

  • applicants for TANF, 

  • recipients of TANF, and 

  • transitional families coming off TANF and going to work. 

Services include: child care, transportation, medical services, reimbursements for required job uniforms. Make sure you ask their case manager about services that are available.


Other services that are necessary to keep you employed or on the track to employment may be provided. They must be pre-approved by your case manager and the local Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).


If you are sanctioned for not completing your work requirement, you have the right to a hearing.  If there is a dispute over a sanction, you should contact your local DFCS office to request a hearing. Make a request within 30 days of the sanction. There are “good cause” reasons for not complying with TANF requirements, such as:

  • death,

  • serious illness or 

  • lack of child care.

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What are my responsibilities with TANF?

  • Work Requirements: All TANF parents must engage in work activities. However, a parent may be able to get exempt status if he/she has a child under the age of one.

    • Adults who are not included in the TANF grant 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).


  • Personal Responsibility Agreements: For TANF, you must sign a Personal Responsibility Agreement (PRA). These include requirements such as: 

    • Ensuring that your children go to school and

    • Getting preschool immunizations,

    • Attending school conferences,

    • Participating in substance abuse treatment, 

    • Getting prenatal care,

    • Going to family planning counseling.

  • Teen parents. Teen parents must remain in school to get their GED or high school diploma. They must live with: 

    • a parent, 

    • responsible relative, or 

    • other adult-supervised living facility. 

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What are the Division of Family and Children Services’ (DFCS) rights and responsibilities?

If you do not fulfill your work requirements, DFCS can impose sanctions on your TANF benefits. If you do not comply with your personal work plan, and you don't have "good cause" or a good reason, you will be sanctioned.  


DFCS must provide you the opportunity to dispute their decisions. 

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How can I apply for TANF?

In Person:

Apply for TANF at your local Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) office.


Visit the Georgia Gateway website and select "Apply for Benefits."

By Phone: 

Telephone applications may be submitted by calling (877) 423-4746.

By Mail:

You may also mail or fax your application to your local DFCS office.

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Can I apply for TANF if I am a grandparent or other kinship caregiver?


What are Grandparent Raising Children Payments(GRG) and Crisis Intervention Services Payment (CRISP)? 

Grandparents raising grandchildren (GRG) is an ongoing supplement through TANF. To get it you must: 

  • be a grandparent who is the caregiver of a grandchild, 

  • must meet the GRG income guidelines (less than 160% of the federal poverty level), and 

  • must be 55 years of age or older; or

  • disabled and receiving disability (no age requirement if disabled).


Crisis Intervention Services Payment (CRISP) is a one- time cash payment. CRISP equals up to 4 times the maximum TANF benefit amount for that family size.  To get it you must: 

  • be eligible for TANF as a grandparent and 

  • must have a qualifiable emergency need due to the relative minors in the home. DFCS determines whether the emergency is qualified.

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What can happen if I do not comply with the TANF work activity requirements?

If you don't follow the work activity requirement you will be in violation of your TANF agreement. You will be subject to a penalty or sanction. There are severe penalties in Georgia's TANF program unless you have "good cause" (a good reason) for not complying.


Here are some examples that would subject you to a sanction unless you have a showing of good cause:

  • you fail to keep appointments

  • you refuse to report to assigned activities

  • you refuse to report for a job interview

  • you refuse to accept suitable child care, transportation or other support

  • you cause a serious disruption at your work site

  • you fail to meet the required hours per week

  • you quit a job without good cause or prior consultation with case manager


What is a "good cause"?

Examples of a good cause for not complying with TANF work activities are:

  • illness or medical condition which is obvious or otherwise substantiated,

  • court required appearances,

  • child care, transportation, or social services are not available,

  • domestic violence issues,

  • conflicting Personal Work Plan and Personal Responsibility Plan requirements,

  • job offer is below minimum wage,

  • custodial care for incapacitated individual that resides in recipient's home is unavailable,

  • you meet the exemption criteria and want to withdraw. You must not have claimed exemption status before.


What is a Conciliation Letter?

DFCS will send you a Conciliation letter if  you have violated a TANF work requirement for failure to participate. This letter will describe the failure to participate and schedules a conciliation appointment.

At this appointment, the DFCS worker is supposed to: 

  • tell you what good cause is and 

  • ask you why you didn't comply with the requirements.


What happens at the Conciliation Appointment?
  • The DFCS worker sends you a letter within 7 days of knowledge of the failure to participate. The conciliation appointment is supposed to be scheduled ASAP, but no later than fourteen days. At the conciliation appointment you have a chance to explain if you have good cause.

  • If you go to the conciliation appointment and explain your good cause and the DFCS worker agrees you will not be sanctioned.

  • If you go to the appointment, but the DFCS worker does not agree that you had good cause, then the you will be referred for sanction. It is important to remember you have a right to a hearing if DFCS says you do not have good cause.

  • If you do not go to the conciliation appointment, the DFCS worker will recommend that your case be closed. If your case is closed and you later reapply for TANF benefits, you will have to go through conciliation before your benefits are reinstated.


What are the penalties I face for failure to participate?

A first time sanction for failure to participate results in a 25% reduction in benefits for up to 3 months. This counts as strike one. However, if you may not get a strike if you can show good cause.

The second time a violation happens without good cause: 

  • your TANF benefits will be cut off and 

  • you are dropped from the program permanently.


IMPORTANT: You have a right to a hearing to challenge the sanctions, but you must make a request within 30 days.


How can I come into compliance?

For a first sanction, you can get your full benefits back if you make a "request to comply" within three months of the sanction.

Your request to comply should be made to the DFCS worker. The worker will then write up a compliance agreement. This agreement says exactly what you must do for compliance, as well as:

  • the activities the participant must complete

  • the number of hours per week to be completed in each activity

  • the start and end dates of the compliance period (NOTE: This period should not exceed 2 weeks)

  • the consequences of failure to fulfill the terms of the agreement


You may be asked to go back to your old work activity site, or you might be placed in another work activity. This should be done within 3 days of completing a compliance agreement. During the compliance period, you should continue to get support services.


If you meet the conditions of the compliance agreement the DFCS worker will lift the sanction.

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How can I appeal a TANF decision?

If you get TANF benefits and disagree with the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) you have the right to a fair hearing. To get a fair hearing tell your DFCS worker that you want one, and put the request in writing. You must ask for a hearing within 30 days. If you ask for the hearing within 10 days you TANF benefits will keep coming at the old amount.


At the hearing you have the right to :

  • examine the contents of the record and all documents on which the department will rely prior to the hearing

  • present the case with or without legal representation

  • request assistance for transportation to the hearing

  • bring and/or subpoena witnesses

  • determine all pertinent facts and circumstances

  • present arguments without undue interference

  • confront and question any adverse witnesses


Hearings are conducted by the Office of State Administrative Hearings (OSAH) by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ is required to be impartial. You must get an initial decision within 90 days from the date your request was received by the agency. This may be longer if there is a postponement or continuance. If the decision is not in your favor, you have 30 days until the decision is final.  Your benefits cannot be reduced or terminated until the decision becomes final.

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Will a TANF sanction affect my public housing income computation?

Your public housing rent will not be lowered if you are getting less TANF because of you did not meet the work requirement. The amount of your TANF reduction, although not actually received, will still count as income. 


Families whose TANF benefits are reduced for the following reasons should have their rent reduced:

  • Expiration of the lifetime or other limit on benefits;

  • Family member is unable to obtain work even though there has been compliance with the DFCS work activities requirements;

  • Family member sanction for non- complied with other requirements not related to work; or

  • TANF sanction was imposed while the resident was not residing in Section 8 or public housing.


What can I do if there is a dispute concerning the amount of imputed TANF income?

You can ask for a hearing if: 

  • you dispute the Public Housing Authority’s (PHA) calculation of the amount of lowered TANF, 

  • and your request for a recalculation or modification is denied. 


The PHA is required to provide you with: 

  • written notice of the denial and 

  • an opportunity for a hearing under the appropriate grievance procedures. 


The notice must include a brief explanation of the basis for the PHA determination and calculations. You are not required to deposit an amount equal to the disputed amount into an escrow account as a condition for your grievance hearing.


As a resident of public housing, the TANF sanction will not affect you at all in public housing if:

  • The sanction was imposed before you began residing in public housing

  • The sanction is imposed for reasons other than work related activities

  • The sanction was imposed, but now you are no longer receiving benefits due to employment

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How can I get a hardship waiver?

There are three ways you can get an extension of your TANF benefits. Case managers might give you a hardship waiver if:

  1. You are a victim of domestic violence. 

  2. You have an active child protective services case. 

  3. You are disabled, or you are caring for a disabled family member.

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Last Review and Update: Apr 01, 2022
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