TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) provides time-limited cash assistance to low-income families with minor children who are deprived of parental support because of the absence, death, incapacity, or unemployment of at least one parent. TANF is operated in Oklahoma by the Department of Human Services. It is funded primarily through a federal block grant with a state matching requirement. Prior to the 1996 federal welfare reform law, the program was known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). The 1996 law imposed a five-year lifetime limit on benefit and stricter work requirements, among other changes.
TANF cash assistance has become an increasingly insignificant part of the social safety net in the decades since welfare reform. In Oklahoma, fewer than 4,000 families received TANF cash assistance in an average month in FY 2022. Nearly three-quarters of Oklahoma TANF cases are “child-only cases” in which no adult household member receives assistance. Less than 15 percent of Oklahoma’s TANF funds are spent on cash assistance; most is spent on child care and work support programs. The maximum monthly cash benefit for a family of three in Oklahoma is $292 and has been unchanged since the 1990s.