Trapped in America's Safety Net

Trapped in America's Safety Net

One Family's Struggle

Andrea Louise Campbell

TANF rules and benefits differ widely across states, even across near neighbors. A stepparent’s income is included in the income test in Iowa but not in Kansas; a grandparent’s income is included in New Hampshire but not in Vermont. A family with $ 2,000 in assets would be eligible for TANF in Oregon but not in Washington. Idaho requires applicants to be engaged in a job search to receive benefits, while Montana does not. In Mississippi, the highest sanction for failing to comply with the work requirement is total loss of benefits and permanent ineligibility for TANF, while in Arkansas the case is merely closed until the family is in compliance for two weeks. A family’s experience depends entirely on the state in which it happens to live.

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