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What were the major changes from Aid to Families with Dependant Children (AFDC) to TANF?

The main difference in between AFDC and its replacement, TANF, was in their goals. The goal of AFDC was to provide money to destitute (defined as absent from the home, incapacitated, deceased or unemployed) parents so they could raise their children; while the goal of TANF is to help needy parents by promoting marriage, reducing out-of-wedlock births, and promoting work.

In addition to altering the objectives of each program, there were four major changes that came out of welfare reform:

  1. Entitlement: During Welfare Reform, TANF—as explicitly stated in the law, was no longer an entitlement. AFDC provided all qualified families that met the criteria with cash assistance, while TANF now requires that qualified adults must comply with work requirements (a certain number of hours worked or preparing for work).
  2. Sanctions: Work requirements are also backed by sanctions for recipients who do not comply with them. Sanctions are at the discretion of the state, and can include a reduction in cash benefits for missing or being late to a meeting with a case manager to a termination of benefits if the recipient falls short in the number of hours worked that is required of him or her. There are also penalties for states that do not meet the federal work requirements.
  3. Limits on Benefits: One of the most obvious changes in welfare reform was the time limit on benefits. TANF recipients can receive a maximum of five years of federally-funded cash benefits.
  4. Fixed Block Grant: Under AFDC, no matter how high states set their benefit or how many families they had on the rolls, they received a fixed percentage of welfare payments from the federal government for every individual they had enrolled in welfare; however, under the TANF block grant, the amount of money they receive is fixed. The consequence is that states then have financial incentives to reduce the size of their TANF rolls.

For more information: 2004 House Committee on Ways and Means Green Book, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/wmprints/green/index.html