If you have children and receive
Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) cash from the county assistance
office there are some things you need to know to protect your interests.
(The information in this pamphlet does not apply to your medical
assistance or food stamp benefits.) If you have any questions about
information in this pamphlet call us at (800) 665-6957, in Erie
County call 452-6957.
You can only get cash assistance for five (5) years (1825 days)
if you are applying for yourself and your child (biological or
The five-year rule does not apply to you if you are getting cash
assistance for a child that is not your biological or legally
adopted child, unless you are also getting cash assistance for
yourself at the same time.
Usually, once you use up your five years of eligibility you
cannot get cash assistance for yourself or your child unless you can
show a hardship or you suffer from a medical disability. Hardship
exceptions are not guaranteed. Your child could still get cash
assistance if he or she began living in the home of another adult
who has not used up their eligibility.
If you get any benefits from the cash assistance program during a
month, it will count against your five years of eligibility. For
example, even if you only received $10 or $20 in cash assistance
during a month, that month will count as one month against your
five-year time limit. Cooperation with work or child support
requirements does not stop the five-year time limit from running.
If you get cash assistance, you will probably have to participate
in mandatory work activities to keep your benefits. This section
describes what you have to do and how to use the work activity
requirement to get the education and training you need to get a good
Agreement of Mutual Responsibility (AMR)
This is a very important document. In the AMR you set
your employment goals and how you plan to achieve them. The
assistance office lists the supportive services (child
care/transportation etc.) they will give you to help you
reach your goal. You must do what the AMR says unless you
are voluntarily participating in a work activity. Read the
section of this pamphlet about The Agreement of Mutual
Responsibility so you get what you need in your AMR. Please
note that if your situation changes after you sign your AMR,
the regulations of the welfare department state, "Goals
and steps may be modified at any time and the county
assistance office may review the client's progress between
When you start getting cash assistance you must do a job search
and, if you cannot find a job during that time, you may be required
to engage in other work activity. There are a few exceptions to this
You have a verified physical or mental disability that
keeps you from working.
You are caring for a child under six (6) and do not have
child care available.
You are under 18 and in high school or working on a GED
You are single and taking care of a child under one (1)
year of age. This can only be used for a total of 12 months
in your lifetime.
Contracted job search. You go to an agency hired by the
assistance office to help you develop the skills to look for and
find a job. You must attend classes for a certain number of hours
per week based on your household composition. The agency will also
supervise your job search. In addition, you must continue looking
for a job under the supervision of the agency for up to 90 days
after the program ends.
Which type of job search should you choose?
If you are already in school or a training program or
plan to attend a training program, your school hours may
count toward your required working hours.
If you do not have a clear employment goal and little
experience in looking for a job, you will be placed in a
contracted job search.
First 12 months. You can meet your requirement by
participating in one or more of the following activities. A work
activity (see 12-24 months below) may also be used to meet this
requirement if you are not in school or training. There are no
specified number of hours per week you must devote to the activity.
English as a second language training
job skills training
training or education program of your choice
Insist on having an educational or training activity count as your
work activity if you are in training or school or have definite plans to
attend school or training. Make sure the training activity is listed in
your AMR as your work activity. In addition, you can ask that payment
for child care expenses and transportation costs you need to attend
school or training be included in your AMR.
12-24 Months. After the first twelve months you can
continue to participate in an educational activity. However,
you will also have to participate in a work or work related
activity at the same time, unless you are between ages 18
and 22 and are working on your high school diploma or GED.
Again, there is no mandatory minimum amount of time you must
devote to the additional work activity. The types of
acceptable work activities include:
job readiness/preparation activities
subsidized employment (work study is ok)
work experience (internship or apprenticeship)
workfare (a job provided by the assistance office)
community service (work for a nonprofit or
After 24 Months. You can continue your education or
training activity but, you must also be participating
in a work activity at least 20 or 30 hours per week,
depending on you household compostion. The only acceptable
work activities after 24 months are:
Important Note: If you are attending school or training and
get child support on a regular basis
have another source of income such as Social Security or SSI
You should consider going off cash assistance if your other income is
even close to the amount you get on cash assistance. Remember, even if
you only get $1 in cash assistance benefits that will count as a month
against your five-year limit. In addition, if you do not get cash
assistance the mandatory work requirements no longer apply which may
make it easier for you to complete your training program. Remember, you
do not have to be getting cash assistance to be eligible for
medical assistance and food stamps.
What will happen if the assistance office says I have not been
following the plan in my AMR?
Your benefits will be suspended. It is very important
that you contact Northwestern Legal Services right away if
you get a notice proposing to suspend your benefits so an
attorney or paralegal can help you.
You must apply for child support to get cash assistance benefits
unless your child's mother or father is also living with you. You
must have a very good reason for failing or refusing to identify, by
name, the father of a child so they can enter a support order
against him. If you do not want to, or are unable to name the
father, contact Northwestern Legal Services right away for more
SPECIAL RULES FOR PARENTS WHO ARE UNDER THE AGE OF 18
A minor parent must reside with a parent, legal guardian, other
adult relative or in an appropriate adult-supervised supportive
arrangement. There are some exceptions to this rule. If you are a
parent under age 18 and cannot live with your parent(s) for some
reason, but need cash assistance for yourself and your child,
contact Northwestern Legal Services right away for help.
INCOME AND RESOURCES
The following rules now apply to income you earn from working and
property or other resources you get or own
50% of your gross earnings will not count in determining
how much cash assistance you receive. The deduction for the
cost of dependent care related to employment is deducted
following application of the 50 percent disregard.
Educational assistance and income in kind are not counted
in calculating your cash assistance grant. Income in kind
are things people do for you or give to you, instead of
cash, for work you do for them.
The cash value of life insurance is not counted as a
resource available to you.
An educational savings account established to pay for
post-secondary educational expenses directly to an approved
educational institution is not considered a resource.
Educational assistance in the form of loans, grants and
scholarships is also excluded as a resource.
One motor vehicle, whatever the value, is excluded as a