North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today that the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program’s standard of need will increase to 50% of the federal poverty level beginning Aug. 1. The increase comes in conjunction with the removal of the Pay After Performance requirement that came into effect on July 1, as part of an overall modernization effort.
Changes to modernize the TANF program were implemented as a result of a thorough environmental scan conducted by the HHS Economic Assistance (EA) Division in partnership with the Office of Family Assistance Peer Technical Assistance Network (OFA Peer TA). Proposed solutions from the evaluation were presented by HHS and approved during the 68th Legislative Session.
“Ultimately, we hope through this modernization process more North Dakotans will have the ability to access TANF assistance during critical times,” said Iverson Shafer. “As we continue this modernization process we will monitor the effectiveness of these changes to ensure we are on a solid path of eliminating poverty throughout North Dakota.”
During the environmental scan, the EA Division and OFA Peer TA convened with local community partners and program participants to determine a foreword approach in assisting North Dakotan families who are affected by poverty and hardship.
The program’s standard of need was increased to reflect the rising cost of living due to inflation. Previously, families were only able to receive TANF assistance if their earned income was within 20-25% of the federal poverty level. With the program’s previous requirement, a single parent household with two children would be eligible to receive approximately $422 a month if their annual income was equal to or less than $5,069. The unadjusted amount left families far below the poverty line, making it extremely difficult for families to meet their basic needs.
“Since 2009, North Dakota has experienced a 43% decrease in TANF caseload,” said HHS Economic Assistance Director of Program Administration Rachel Iverson Shafer. “In 2018-2019, only 13 families for every 100 families living in poverty in North Dakota received TANF assistance. We determined that modernization was needed to ensure more North Dakotans would be able to benefit from the program.”
Similarly, the previous PAP requirement also did not reflect the current needs of North Dakotans. Due to the filing process, program participants would only receive their full benefit amount four months after the initial filing. Nearly 40% of the environmental scan survey respondents suggested changing the PAP requirement, expressing a need for a more streamlined process.
The TANF program is intended to move families from public assistance to self-sufficiency by providing cash assistance along with work readiness, training and job placement services. Individuals who are interested in the program can apply online, by mail or locally at a Human Service Zone office.