Apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Low-income PA families may qualify for TANF cash assistance to help you get back on your feet and meet basic needs. 


TANF is a crucial safety net for thousands of pregnant mothers and low-income families across Pennsylvania.TANF was established to promote self-respect, rehabilitation, and self-sufficiency for families who need support.

TANF is a federally funded program providing money for dependent children who are needy because financial support is not available from one or both parents. The payment is made to parents or relatives who care for the children in family homes. The purpose is to prevent a child from being forced from their own family for economic reasons.   

TANF Eligibility

Who can get TANF benefits?

The TANF program provides money to help:

  • Pregnant women
  • Dependent children and their parents who live with them
  • Dependent children and other relatives who live with them and care for them

Duration of benefits

You can receive cash assistance for 60 months (5 years) total over the course of your lifetime.


Workers at the County Assistance Office (CAO) can provide more information on all of these requirements:

  • You must be a United States citizen and a resident of Pennsylvania. (Certain non-citizens lawfully admitted for permanent residence may be eligible.)
  • You and your family members must provide Social Security Numbers or apply for them.
  • You are required to look for a job or participate in an employment and training program. (Some people may be excused from the work requirements, for example, a person with a disability.)
  • You will need to help your caseworker complete an Agreement of Mutual Responsibility (AMR). This will set a goal of what it will take to no longer need TANF. This might include looking for work, attending a training program, or applying for Social Security benefits.
  • If you want cash assistance for a dependent child:
    • You must cooperate with paternity and child support requirements (unless otherwise specified).
    • The child must be under age 18 or age 18 and a full-time student.
    • The child must live with you and you must care for the child.
    • You must need support and care for the child because of least one of these things:
      • Death of the child's parent;
      • Incapacity of the child's parent (such as a long illness);
      • Continued absence of a parent from your home; or
      • One or both parents with no income or low income from employment.
  • Your resources (things with cash value such as bank accounts, bonds or property that are not your primary/main residence) must have a value of $1,000 or less.
  • You must report all income from job(s) or from other sources including, but not limited to, child support, unemployment compensation, interest, Social Security benefits, or lottery winnings.

Apply Now

You can apply for TANF online or through your local County Assistance Office (CAO)

Download an application form (below) and return it to your local CAO.

If you need help completing the application form or need more information about benefits, trained workers at your county assistance office can help you.

Apply Online

Log on to COMPASS and start your online application. 


Apply In Person

Download, complete, and return an application to your local county assistance office to apply. 

Find Your County Office

Frequently Asked Questions

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:

  • Where are the classes held?
  • How often during the job search would I go to class?
  • What are the hours?
  • How many weeks does the program last?

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:

  • What child care options do I have?
  • Can I get help paying a relative or neighbor to watch my children?
  • Who can help me find suitable child care?
  • Will payments be made to me or directly to the child care provider?
  • What do I have to do to get help paying for child care?
  • Will my child care provider have to wait for a payment?
  • What forms do I need to fill out, and what do I do with them?
  • Will I have to make any co-payment towards the cost of child care?
  • My child care center charges for holidays and for occasional days missed. Will you help me pay for that?
  • I work nights and need someone to watch my child while I sleep during the day. Is help available?
  • If I close my cash assistance case after I start working, what happens to my child care payments?


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:

  • Be age 16 to 64.
  • Be employed and receiving compensation.
  • Have a disability as determined by the Department of Human Services (DHS). A disability might include, but is not limited to, a physical or developmental disability, mental retardation, HIV or AIDS.
  • Have countable income below 250 percent of the federal poverty level. You still might qualify if you earn a little more. Ask your caseworker for help figuring out if you are eligible.
  • Have less than or equal to $10,000 in countable assets. Some items, such as your house or car, do not count toward this $10,000 limit. Ask your caseworker for help figuring out if you are eligible.
  • All participants must pay a monthly premium of five percent of their countable monthly income.
  • If you are eligible, your health care coverage might include doctor visits, dental and vision services, prescriptions, drug and alcohol treatment, hospital stays, rehabilitation services, hospice services, transportation to doctor visits, medical supplies and in-home health care.

Congratulations, you are on your way towards independence. Here are some of the steps you should take now that you have found a job:

  • Arrange for your child care and transportation. Make sure you have a back-up plan for emergencies.
  • Ask your new employer for the information you and your caseworker need. Give this information to your caseworker, and then ask your caseworker how the job will change your situation.

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 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 the 12 months total over the course of your lifetime:

  • Use this time wisely because you do not get 12 months for each baby you have. If you use up all 12 months to care for one baby, you probably will not be able to get any time off to care for another baby down the road.
  • If you plan to have another child in the next few years, you may not want to use all 12 months at this time. Instead, you should think about saving some of the 12 months in case you have another baby soon.
  • You may also be exempted from the work requirements while you are recovering from delivering your baby — this does not count against your 12 months. Have your doctor fill out a medical assessment form to determine if you are exempt.

Even if you are exempt, you can still participate in some programs:

  • If you are excused from the work requirements, you can still get special allowances to pursue education or training as part of your plan to achieve self-sufficiency—make sure this is in your Agreement of Mutual Responsibility (AMR).
  • If you volunteer to go to school or participate in a work or training program approved in your AMR, you may qualify for help with expenses, like child care, transportation or books. But to be accepted as a volunteer in some work programs, you must agree to stay in that program for a set period of time.
  • To learn more about available programs, call your local County Assistance Office caseworker.

If you are performing community service or other unpaid work experience:

  • Look for paid employment.
  • Ask your caseworker for a referral to programs that can help you find a job.

If you are not currently working:

  • Ask your caseworker about the Maximizing Participation Project (MPP).
  • Ask your caseworker about employment and training programs that can help you.

  • Ask your caseworker about the Maximizing Participation Project (MPP).
  • Ask your caseworker about the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP).

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.


Contact Your County Assistance Office (CAO)

For questions or additional information contact your local County Assistance Office (CAO).

Find Your County Office