Both the food stamp program and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program were designed to give help to low-income families, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The food stamp program gives families assistance to buy food, while TANF gives families cash for bills and necessities. The two are not the same program.
Food Stamp Program
The food stamp program, which was renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in October 2008, gives eligible families food money. Benefit amounts, which are determined by a family's need, are deposited onto a state debit card for the recipient to use. Benefits carry over from one month to the next and are usable for nearly any food purchase.
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The TANF program gives families cash to help pay bills, utilities and anything else necessary, according to the USDA. Only very low-income households qualify for TANF. The goals of TANF are to give families the boost they need to become independent, to discourage pregnancy outside of marriage and to encourage two-parent families.
The major difference between SNAP and TANF is time, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SNAP benefits are considered an "entitlement" program, meaning anyone who needs food assistance can receive it for as long as they need it. TANF, on the other hand, is deliberately temporary. Recipients can get benefits for only 60 months during their lifetimes, and they must find work either immediately, if they have no dependents, or within 24 months if they do have dependents.
SNAP benefits are loaded onto a debit card for use at the register, according to the USDA. Swipe the card and provide your PIN to pay for your groceries. You can withdraw TANF benefits in cash from your EBT card either from the register or from an ATM. Some ATMs charge fees for withdrawing money, and some grocery stores put a limit on how much money you can withdraw at the register. Check with the store prior to pulling money out.