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March 1, 2013 - February 28, 2014
Answers to the most frequently asked questions about applying for cash assistance and how the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program can help you and your family move to financial independence are listed below.
YES! A Pennsylvania family with a working adult earns more income and greater benefits than a family without a working adult. Ask your caseworker now for the information you need to plan your future.
Remember, not all benefits are financial. Getting a job will help build your self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. It allows you to make new friends and business connections that may serve as stepping stones to bigger and better things. It also sets a good example for your children to follow.
Anyone who receives cash assistance and is able to work must look for work, accept any real offer of employment and keep the job. This process begins with an initial job search. You can participate in an initial job search with help from a caseworker at your local county assistance office.
Working with your caseworker, you should decide which program would best help you find a job. Think about what each program has to offer you, given your work history, skills, level of education, availability of transportation, child care arrangements, interviewing background, resume writing experience, etc.
Ask your caseworker the following questions about available programs:
If you need to make plans for child care and/or transportation during your job search -- and for the future when you are working -- ask your caseworker:
Child Care Works will help you find and pay for quality child care while you are on cash assistance and looking for a job, going to work or going to school. Child Care Works will also help you while you are working after cash assistance ends. For more information, call the Child Care Works helpline at 1-877-4-PA-KIDS (1-877-472-5437) or visit: Child Care Works.
You have the right to choose the type of care your children receive. Payments will be made when you and your child care provider need them.
Ask your caseworker these questions so you choose the right child care for your family’s needs:
Get started on your education or training program as soon as possible. As you plan how you will support yourself and your family, remember that education or training programs can help you find a better job. This could include finishing high school, getting your GED or learning new skills.
During your first two years on cash assistance - after you complete your initial job search - going to an approved education or training program can help you meet work requirements.
If you are still participating in the education or training program after you have been on cash assistance for two years, you may be able to combine your hours of work and school to meet requirements.
Ask your caseworker if this applies to you. Ask your caseworker for the information you need to decide if an education or training program is a good idea for you:
Congratulations, you are on your way towards independence. Here are some of the steps you should take now that you have found a job:
Note: If you still qualify for some cash assistance benefits, think about whether you want to continue to receive them or try to make it on your pay. If you make it on your pay, you can stop the TANF clock and save days on cash assistance for the future. Ask your caseworker how your child care is affected if you stop receiving cash assistance.
If you work and have a valid Social Security number, you may be eligible for the federal Earned Income Credit (EIC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The amounts of these payments depend on the size of your family and amount of your income and you can get this credit even if you don't owe any federal taxes.
The Earned Income Credit – also known as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) -- benefits low-income workers with children who are:
To claim your credit, you must file a federal tax return and use Schedule EIC, even if your family doesn't owe any taxes.
The Child Care Tax Credit benefits low-income workers with children under age 17, even if you do not owe any federal taxes.
Check in your community for the location of sites offering free help in preparing your federal income tax return. The IRS offers free tax preparation through a program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). These sites are usually open from the end of January through April 15.
The Earned Income Credit and Child Care Tax Credit may not affect your family's eligibility for cash assistance, Medicaid, or SNAP. However, you must report receiving the credit to your caseworker.
For more information about these credits, call the Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-1040 or check their Web site at www.irs.gov.
If you have a disability and you decide to go to work, it is possible to receive Medical Assistance, even when your earnings increase beyond the normal eligibility limit. To be eligible for this program, you must:
Consider volunteering for the Maximizing Participation Project (MPP), which is designed to help you overcome obstacles, reach your individual potential, improve your quality of life, and move your family toward self-sufficiency. Your local county assistance office caseworker and other professionals will guide you through the program.
Professional services available may include:
You can get help paying for child care, transportation, or other costs associated with being in this program.
If you are excused (exempt) from participating in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program work requirements because you are caring for a child under one year old, or if you are about to have a baby, you should know these three important facts:
You can only be exempt for this reason for 12 months total over the course of your lifetime.
Even if you are exempt, you can still participate in some programs.
What if I am working but still receiving cash assistance? You should:
What happens if I am not working and cannot find a job?
If you are performing community service or other unpaid work experience:
If you are not currently working:
What happens if I have physical or mental problems which keep me from working:
You can get help paying for child care, transportation, and other things you may need to participate in most of these programs. Remember, you may still keep health care coverage, food stamps, and other support services after cash assistance ends.
An adult may receive cash assistance for only five years total in a lifetime.
There are certain circumstances when you can have up to 12 months of cash assistance that would not count toward your five-year lifetime limit. This is referred to as a "TANF Time-Out." Ask your caseworker about TANF Time-Out.
You may qualify for a TANF Time-Out if:
You may continue to be eligible for cash assistance benefits after the five-year Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) limit has ended through "Extended TANF."
You may be eligible for Extended TANF if:
Eligibility for Extended TANF may require you to participate in an approved program such as the Maximizing Participation Project (MPP) or the Work Plus Program (WPP).
If you participate in MPP or WPP, your caseworker and other professionals will guide you through the programs. You can get help paying for child care, transportation, or other costs while you are in MPP, WPP or other approved programs.
Your family may be eligible to receive free or low-cost health care coverage, even if you no longer receive cash assistance. In fact, you and your family automatically remain eligible for Medical Assistance (MA)/Medicaid for at least six months after you start working, no matter how much money you make. Additionally, your children might remain eligible for Medicaid even after you no longer qualify. These programs can help working families:
Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)