Cash Assistance

2021 TANF State Plan

As required by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, each state must submit a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) state plan to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  State Plans may be amended at any time. Pennsylvania's updated State Plan will be submitted to DHHS in December 2021.

Summary of Key Issues

Pennsylvania's State Plan includes these changes:

Lottery Winnings

  • The Public Assistance Integrity Act 125 was passed on October 24, 2018 and provided new rules for the purpose of determining a recipient's eligibility for cash assistance.  Individual lottery winnings of $600 or more shall be considered an available resource.  The lottery winnings shall be calculated on a prorated basis over a 12-month period following receipt of the winnings.
  • Lottery winnings are to be reported within 10 days of receipt.  Individual lottery winnings greater than $600.00 is divided evenly over the 12 months following receipt. The divided amount counts as a resource for comparison to the resource limits for the 12-month period of time.
  • Lump sum lottery winnings of $599.99 or less is counted as income in the month received, and as a resource thereafter if money is still available.

Work Expense Deduction (WED)

Effective September 26, 2020, each working individual in all TANF families with earned income are eligible for a WED of $200 a month.  DHS has received ongoing requests from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and client advocates to increase cash grant amounts.  In response, DHS implemented the WED which enables working families to receive an increase in their monthly cash grant by reducing their countable earned income used in determining the monthly assistance amount by $200 a month.  This will aide working families transitioning from TANF to self-sufficiency by reducing the financial burden experienced with the loss of benefits. 

WED replaced the Work Expense Reimbursement initiative which provided all TANF families with earned income a $50 a month reimbursement for work expenses.

Transitional Cash Assistance (TCA)

The Transitional Cash Assistance program funding stream was changed from 100 percent state funded Maintenance of Effort to comingled federal and state funding. This change is in response to reporting challenges and was devised to simplify and improve reporting accuracy.  The change was effective 2015.

Emergency Assistance Program (EAP)

EAP was established for families whose employment or earned income was impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency.  This program is 100 percent TANF funds allocated from available unobligated TANF monies.  It is open to all Pennsylvania residents meeting TANF non-assistance criteria.  It is not available to current TANF or Diversion recipients.  This change was effective May 12, 2020. 

EAP will remain an initiative after the COVID-19 emergency has ended.  It can be activated at the Governor's or Secretary's discretion when any declaration of disaster or emergency has been declared and impacts TANF families.  EAP provides a one-time non-assistance payment in an amount determined by the Secretary and approved by the Governor's office depending upon a family's need in relation to the type of emergency being addressed. 

Work First

For most recipients, the way to self-sufficiency and economic independence is through employment.  Pennsylvania's approach provides the client with a range of services to build necessary skills and a work history.  Pennsylvania will educate, train and support TANF recipients to help them move from welfare to work

The TANF Catastrophic Emergency Contingency Plan was also established during the COVID-19 emergency.  DHS identified several areas within our procedural processes that became barriers to establishing and maintaining eligibility when an emergency crisis limits or restricts an individual's ability to interact with DHS.  During a catastrophic emergency, modifications may be made to interview procedures, verification procedures, support requirements, Semi-Annual Reporting and annual eligibility requirements, in addition to the possibility of granting good cause for Road to Economic Self-sufficiency through Employment and Training requirements.  ACF required all states to incorporate the TANF Catastrophic Emergency Contingency Plan within their TANF State Plans.  This change was effective May 12, 2020.


Public Comment 

DHS invites public comment on all aspects of the TANF State Plan. Comments may be sent to:

Carl Feldman, Director
Bureau of Policy

Health and Welfare Building, Room 431 
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120
Phone: 717-705-0710

Comments may also be submitted by email to: