U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Located in:
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

    States that include TANF in the Combined State Plan must outline how the State will meet the requirements of section 402 of the Social Security Act including how it will:

    (OMB Control Number: 0970-0145)

c. Ensure that parents and caretakers receiving assistance engage in work in accordance with section 407 (section 402(a)(1)(A)(iii) of the Social Security Act). Consistent with the required strategic elements discussed in section II (a)(2) herein, provide a specific analysis of how the State’s workforce development activities are addressing employment and training services for parents or caretakers receiving assistance

Current Narrative:

The Families First/TANF employs the following strategies to ensure clients are working towards self-sufficiency:

•     Adoption of the Two-Generation (2Gen) framework that intentionally focuses on creating services for the parent and child together, to harness the family's full potential and to put them on a permanent path to economic security. This framework is consistently applied when engaging our customers in all aspects of case management and service delivery.

•     Families First/TANF clients will have goal-oriented time-limited, Individualized Career Plans (ICP) and or Family Empowerment Plan (FEP) that carry them through logical and productive steps to self-sufficiency;

•     Sanctions will be imposed when a family fails to comply with the Individualized Career Plan (ICP) and/or Family Empowerment Plan (FEP) without good cause;

•     Cash benefits will be limited to sixty (60) months of eligibility in a lifetime, with some limited exceptions; and

•     Families First/TANF clients who become employed and lose cash benefits may qualify to receive transitional child care assistance, transitional cash assistance, and/or transitional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Once the goals are established and the client is assigned to work or work-related activities that support those goals, the ECMS Provider and TDHS staff work together to ensure that clients receive the appropriate services while the client is in the program. Although the Families First/TANF program does not establish a target goal set for transitioning clients off of assistance; the
client, TDHS staff, and the ECMS Provider work together to establish timeframes for the achievement of goals during the sixty (60)-month time limit.

The Secretary of State was sent a notification from the Governor of Tennessee opting out of the provision to require a Families First/TANF parent or caretaker receiving assistance for two (2) months who is not exempt and who is not employed to participate in community service activity. The State plan requires all non-exempt Families First/TANF clients to have an Individualized Career Plan (ICP) and/or Family Empowerment Plan (FEP).

Transitional Cash Assistance

Effective December 1, 2018, Transitional Cash Assistance (TCA) is available to an AU with an increase in earned income that exceeds the maximum threshold for their household size.   The AU may be eligible for up to six (6) months of the maximum grant allotment for all eligible AU members at the time of TCA approval if the household remains in compliance with TCA eligibility requirements during the six (6) month TCA period.

TCA Eligibility:

•     Become financially ineligible for Families First due to an increase in the AU’s earned income;

•     Meet all other Families First eligibility criteria, as defined in section A; and

•     Be working at least thirty (30) hours per week (OR a combined fifty-five (55) hours for two-parent households receiving federally funded child care).

Note:  TCA is an incentive to the Families First/TANF households designed to address the fiscal cliff families often encounter.  TCA differs from Families First/TANF when 100% of the earned income is excluded for six months which allows the household to continue receiving cash assistance.

TCA Work Requirements/Sanctions:
The AU will be monitored by the Employment and Case Management Services (ECMS) provider during the TCA period. If the AU fails to provide proof of ongoing employment that meets the required work hours, the AU will be referred to TDHS for case closure.
If the AU falls below the required hours during the TCA period and fails to engage in additional activities, the cash assistance will be closed.

The customer will be eligible to receive supportive services during the TCA period. The supportive services include child care, transportation, as well as other supportive services facilitated by the ECMS provider.

Once the TCA period ends, the customer may be eligible to receive eighteen (18) months of transitional child care.

All TCA cases will be counted in the work participation rate and will be reported as an open Families First case.

Diversion Program
Tennessee will operate a Diversion program to serve families who are not receiving the Families First/TANF cash assistance but could achieve self-sufficiency and economic security through a lump-sum payment.

An Assistance Unit (AU) must meet all of the following criteria to receive a Diversion payment:

•     Families First/TANF program eligibility criteria;
•     The Assistance Unit has demonstrated residency in Tennessee for six (6) months;
•     The primary caretaker has a recent job history;
•     The Assistance Unit does not face any major barriers to employment, such as drug/alcohol abuse;
•     The primary caretaker has at least a high school diploma or equivalent; and
•     The household is facing a one-time financial need, and the Diversion payment would prevent the ongoing need for Families First/TANF cash assistance. The funds can be used for housing, transportation, child care, or job needs.

The Diversion payment will reduce the temporary cash assistance lifetime limit of sixty (60) months eligibility by the number of months the applicant receives a Diversion payment.

Those who accept the Diversion payment will be ineligible to receive another Diversion payment or Families First/TANF cash assistance during the diversion months of assistance. Employed Diversion recipients may be eligible for twelve (12) months of subsidized child care.


Sanctions shall be applied to all Families First/TANF cases that are not in compliance with their Personal Responsibility Plans. A sanction may result in a percentage reduction in the Families First/TANF cash assistance for failure to provide immunizations, health checks, attend school, or ensure satisfactory attendance and/or progress of school-aged children. Total assistance group ineligibility will be applied if the family fails to cooperate with child support or comply with their Individualized Career Plan (ICP) and/or Family Empowerment Plan (FEP) activities without good cause, which is determined by TDHS.

Other Policies

Families First/TANF AUs have access to child care. AUs with an eligible adult can access Families First/TANF Child Care if they are engaged in countable work and/or training activities and require child care in order to comply with the program’s work requirements. In addition, clients who are exempt from a work requirement, but wish to volunteer for work/training activities may have access to child care. There is no co-pay fee.

Certain child-only Families First/TANF cases are eligible for At-Risk Child Only (ARCO) childcare if funding is available.

Former Families First/TANF or Transitional Cash Assistance (TCA) clients who are employed or participating in an approved work and/or educational activity at least thirty (30) hours a week can receive up to eighteen (18) months of Transitional Child Care (TCC) after their Families First/TANF case is closed. The eligibility period for TCC begins the first (1st) day of the month after the Families First/TANF cash assistance ends. There is a co-pay fee for ARCO and TCC.

Families First/TANF AUs will be reviewed annually for continued eligibility.

If a single parent marries during the receipt of Families First/TANF cash assistance, he/she may choose to exclude the new spouse from the AU for three (3) full months, regardless of income. Following the three (3) months, the AU must meet Families First/TANF program eligibility requirements to continue to receive cash assistance.

A Family Cap will be applied when a child is conceived and born during a period of eligibility. It may also be applied to a child born after or during a period of ineligibility, but within ten (10) months of a reapplication month. Exceptions are granted when the birth is the result of rape or incest or when the birth is the first (1st) child born to a minor in an assistance unit.

Other Programs

Two Generational Programs

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) fosters a Two-Generation (2Gen) Approach to address poverty from a whole-family centered approach that focuses equally and intentionally on services and opportunities for the child and the caregiver in their lives. This approach builds on four (4) components (i.e. education: early childhood and postsecondary, economic assets, health and well-being, social capital) to create a legacy of economic security that can positively impact the next generation and those to follow. Specifically, TDHS is committed to working with internal and external partners to provide coordinated services and achieve the following goals: (1) Focus on reducing poverty among children and families using a 2Gen Approach; (2) Cross-agency collaborations that promote 2Gen partnerships and systems change at the state level; (3) Create effective pathways to economic opportunity, including access to mainstream education, training and individualized services for those with barriers to employment; (4) Provide training that promotes a 2Gen approach and help human services staff at all levels of the department serve families more effectively and efficiently; (5) Ensure that families have access to economic and social supports to support upward mobility, while also assuring healthy child development; (6) Help families build social capital that can support both resilience and upward mobility; and (7) Engage and listen to the voices of the families.

In 2014, DHS adopted the 2Gen Approach, which affords DHS the opportunity to be innovative and increase community collaboration in a way that moves children and their parent/caregiver towards educational success, economic stability, strong social capital, and health and well-being. Through this foundational framework, the Department has established several community and state government partnerships across Tennessee to deliver services in a manner that improves economic security and well-being for low income families. The 2Gen partnerships promotes one or more of the four statutory purposes of the TANF program, and two of those being: 1) Provide assistance to needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes; and 2) Reduce the dependency of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage.

The TDHS’ 2Gen programs collectively offer a myriad of health and human services and/or family economic stability services directly or through referral linkage. Services include:

  • Non-medical, wraparound substance abuse and mental health resources to those individuals experiencing and families impacted by opioid addition/crisis;
  • Increase the provision of early-intervention home visiting services and supports to mother at pregnancy or at birth, up to age five of the child to improve the health, development, and well-being of children and parent;
  • Legal Counseling to assist the families with any immediate civil legal issues such as existing family law issues (i.e. child support and alimony arrangements, violence in the home). Identification of special education issues that households are facing and provide in-school advocacy to increase services to children. Legal education sessions/workshops into increase advocacy skills. Screening for eligibility for Social Security disability or SSI benefits;
  • Early steps to school success by providing parents with support groups, resources, and knowledge to support their children and fosters strong home/school connections to ensure a smooth transition to school. Provide social emotional enhancements to both families and children on handling toxic stress to reduce ACE’s; therefore, decreasing psychological distress by improving health and wellbeing.
  • Employment training, life skills classes, parenting skills, enrollment in post-secondary opportunities, transportation assistance, enrollment in career certificate programs for training and development, employment opportunities, GED/HISET services, financial planning and management skills, and housing support prevention intervention services; and
  • Comprehensive case management to connect families to childcare, financial support, job training, transportation, nutrition services, and other social services.


Non-Custodial Programs

Child Support has been determined to be an important foundation in assisting families achieve self-sufficiency and preventing them from relying on additional government assistance. In October 2018, Tennessee established partnerships throughout the State with agencies to assist non-custodial parents’ ability to find employment and pay their child support obligations. These partnerships are geared to improving the parenting and communication skills of non-custodians by allowing them to become a greater part of their child’s life. Some of the services provided are access to visitation, assisting noncustodial parents re-entering the workforce, assisting parents who cannot pay child support find employment, and other family centered services.


For a family receiving service through either of these programs, they must meet the State’s low-income eligibility criteria. A family is defined as a parent/legal guardian with child(ren) under the age of 18. "Low-Income Families" means families living at or below the Federal Poverty Level, are eligible for Medicaid; are recipient of or eligible for public benefits such as Families First or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); are part of a coordinated entry system through Social Services agencies; unemployed or zero income verification; live in Section 8 housing or low rent public housing; or eligible for National School Lunch Program: free or reduced lunch.

Pregnant women are eligible to participate and receive services under these programs.


Emergency Cash Assistance

Effective March 2020, the state may elect to operate an Emergency Cash Assistance (ECA) program in the event of a state and/or federal emergency declaration as a result of natural disaster or public health emergency. This benefit will be available for current TANF participants as well as non-TANF participants.

Eligibility for ECA due to natural disasters:

  • Applicant must live and/or work in the area declared a disaster;
  • Families must include a dependent child under the age of eighteen (18) or a pregnant woman (regardless of trimester);
  • The applicant must be a resident of Tennessee;
  • The applicant and household members must have valid social security numbers;
  • The applicant’s resources must not exceed $2,000 (this can be waived at the state’s discretion depending on severity of disaster); and
  • Applicant must be unable to live in the home due to the disaster, or the home requires significant repairs, or work in place of employment due to damage/destruction.

Eligibility for ECA due to public health emergency:

  • Applicant must live in the area affected by the public health emergency;
  • Families must include a dependent child under the age of eighteen (18) or a pregnant woman (regardless of trimester);
  • The applicant must be a resident of Tennessee;
  • The applicant and household members must have valid social security numbers;
  • The applicant’s resources must not exceed $2,000 (This can be waived at the state’s discretion depending on severity of emergency); and
  • Applicant must experience a temporarily loss of income or reduction in hours by at least 50% due to the public health emergency.

Additional ECA requirements:

ECA will be short term benefits, not to exceed four (4) months.

The applicant’s gross household income must not exceed 85% of the State’s median income.

The sixty (60) month time limit will not apply to applicants of ECA.

The 30-hour work requirement will not apply to applicants of ECA.

Child support cooperation is not a requirement for those eligible for ECA.

The standard allotment amount for household sizes will be determined based on the availability of funds, and benefits will be made available to families via the Electronic Benefit Card (EBT).

Families who are participating in the TANF program are eligible for ECA, however, they must continue to meet the eligibility requirements stated in sections A and B of this plan to remain open for TANF.

All Emergency Cash Assistance applicants receive information that explains the right of Appeal and Fair Hearing as described in section K of the plan.