In 1996, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, replaced traditional welfare benefits. TANF provides monthly cash benefits to families with dependent children for up to four years. In addition, households that need help purchasing groceries can apply for the Food Assistance Program. There are no time limits for the Food Assistance Program, provided you're meeting the eligibility requirements. Both programs are reserved for low-income households, but the income requirements for each program differ in Florida.
To qualify for TANF, you must have dependent child under the age of 18, or 19 if she's still a high school student. The child must live in your home. Women also can qualify in the ninth month of pregnancy, or as early as the start of the third trimester if they can't work. You must be a U.S. citizen or qualified immigrant, as well as a Florida resident. You'll need to submit Social Security numbers for all household members. Each child under age 5 must be up-to-date on their immunizations, and children aged 6 to 18 must attend school. If the child's parent isn't living in your home, you'll be required to cooperate with child support enforcement to help locate the parent and establish paternity.
TANF Work Requirements
If you're approved for the program, most adults face a weekly work requirement. Exempt adults include:
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- An individual with a child under 3 months of age
- An individual receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income
- An individual who isn't work eligible. For example, if you're caring for a disabled family member in the home, you aren't required to participate in the work requirement.
Income and Asset Limits for TANF
TANF is available to low-income Florida families with a gross income below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. All sources of income count, including earned and unearned income such as child support or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.
In addition, the household can't have more than $2,000 in countable assets. Examples of countable assets include cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and certificates of deposit. Your primary home is exempt. Your licensed vehicles used to meet the work requirement can't exceed a combined value of $8,500.
Food Assistance Program Eligibility
The same citizenship and residency requirements apply for both TANF and the Food Assistance program. However, there are no dependent requirements for the Food Assistance Program. Able-bodied adults without dependent children or who are not pregnant must work if they're ages 18 to 50. If the work requirement isn't met, benefits are only available for 3 months in a 3-year period.
Food Assistance Program Income and Asset Limits
The Florida Department of Children and Families defines a household as a group of people who buy food and cook together in one home. You must report all sources of income for people living in your household. The household's gross income can't be more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The asset limit is $2,250, or $3,250 if there's a disabled person or senior citizen living in your home. Your home, furniture, vehicles and personal effects are excluded.
Applying for Assistance
Apply for TANF and the Food Assistance Program online by creating a My ACCESS Florida account. If you don't have Internet service at home, visit a community partner to complete the online application. You'll need to enter your full name and create a username and password for future logins. After registering, you can use the screening tool to help determine your benefit eligibility. When you are ready to apply, click "apply for benefits." The same application is used for both programs. While you can apply for both programs at the same time, you may be approved for one and not the other. Submit any required documents, such as pay stubs and W-2 forms, via fax or mail to your local DCF office.
You may download and complete a paper application found under the forms section of MyFLFamilies.com. Complete the form and mail it to ACCESS Central Mail Center, P.O. Box 1770, Ocala, FL, 34478-1770. You also can fax or hand deliver the application to your local ACCESS Service Center. Applications can take up to 30 days to process.