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FAQs-Cash Assistance-General Eligibility Requirements

Authored By: Virginia Poverty Law Center

FAQ

Who can get a TANF check?

TANF checks are for needy families with children. To qualify, the family must meet the following requirements:

1. The family must include a child who is a U.S. citizen or eligible immigrant and at least one adult relative of the child;

2. The family must verify that it is "needy;" and

3. The family must satisfy certain "good conduct" requirements. The family must cooperate in obtaining child support. And if the family includes a parent of a child receiving TANF, then, in most cases, the parent must comply with work requirements. Other "good conduct" requirements may affect the amount of a family's TANF check but do not disqualify the entire family. These requirements involve matters such as school attendance, childhood vaccinations, drug felony convictions, and children born while their mother was receiving TANF. The TANF "good conduct" requirements do not affect a family's eligibility for Medicaid.

When is a "child" too old to qualify for TANF?

To qualify for TANF a "child" must be under age 18, unless he or she is a full time student in high school or an educational or training program that is the equivalent of high school. A full time student, who is 18 years old and will graduate from high school or an equivalent educational or training program before the month of his or her 19th birthday is considered to be a "child" for purposes of TANF eligiblity.

Which immigrants qualify for TANF?

Most legal immigrants who entered the United States before August 22, 1996, and most immigrants admitted to the United States on or after August 22, 1996, for humanitarian purposes (refugees, people granted asylum, and a few other related categories) are eligible for TANF.

However, most lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who entered the United States on or after August 22, 1996, are ineligible for TANF until they have lived in the United States for five years after entering the country, become U.S. citizens, or can be credited with 40 quarters of work.

When is a family "needy"?

TANF payments vary by family size and locality. To be financially eligible for TANF a family must have income, after certain deductions, below the maximum TANF payment for families of the same size in the locality where the family lives.

There are also limits on the value of the assets that a family can own and still qualify for TANF; however, families are allowed to own a home and surrounding property and savings of up to $5,000. The rules concerning car ownership are complicated. Effective July 2003, families will be allowed to own one car of any value; however, currently, families may only own cars with limited value.

The Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS) has an online screening tool at https://jupiter.dss.state.va.us/EligibilityScreening/  that is useful in determining whether a family is sufficiently "needy" that it might qualify for TANF. Based on the locality where a family lives, DSS's screening tool will also provide the name and address of the local agency where a family can go to apply for TANF.

What must a family do to "cooperate" in getting child support?

Unless cooperation would be harmful to a family member because of domestic violence, the family must provide whatever information it may have, or can reasonably get, about any absent parent and appear at the DSS office or court when requested to do so. Family members may also be required to submit to blood tests to establish paternity.

In addition, with some exceptions, mothers are required to provide the first and last names of the father of children born on or after May 1, 1996, or of all men who might be the father. A mother must also provide at least three additional items of information about the father. Acceptable information includes such matters as (1) race, (2) schools attended, (3) occupation, (4) employer, (5) make and model of motor vehicle, (6) places of social contact, and (7) names, addresses, or telephone numbers of parents, friends or relatives. This additional requirement for mothers does not apply to children conceived as the result of rape or incest, or if a mother is unable to comply because of her mental incapacity.

Cooperation in obtaining child support does not mean that a family has to locate an absent parent.

What is the school attendance requirement?

To qualify for TANF, a child must comply with Virginia's compulsory school attendance law. Compliance is determined by the local school division, not DSS. Generally, a child is considered out of compliance and truant from school if:

(1) The child fails to report to school for 3 consecutive days, or for a total of 5 scheduled school days per month or an aggregate of 7 scheduled school days per school calendar quarter; and

(2) No indication has been received by the school that the child's parent or guardian is aware of the absence; and

(3) A reasonable effort by the school to notify the parent or guardian has failed.

The TANF check for a truant child will be reduced only if his parent or other caretaker fails:

(1) To respond to notice from DSS about the situation; or

(2) To cooperate with DSS in developing a plan to achieve compliance with school attendance laws; or

(3) To comply with an agreed plan to achieve compliance with school attendance laws.

What is the childhood vaccination requirement?

To qualify for TANF, a child must have all vaccinations required by state law. State law includes exceptions to vaccination requirements based on a parent's religious beliefs or a doctor's certification that vaccination would be detrimental to the child's health.

Information about required vaccinations and how they can be obtained is avialable from the Virginia Health Department's Division of Immunization, (800) 568-1929, .

A family's TANF check will be reduced by $25 per month if one child in the family has not been properly vaccinated or by $50 per month if two or more children have not been properly vaccinated. If necessary, DSS must provide assistance in obtaining verification that children have been vaccinated. Before DSS can reduce a family's TANF check, it must identify the reason for the family's failure to comply with vaccination requirements and remove any barriers that may have prevented the family from getting a required vaccination.

What is the requirement concerning drug felony convictions?

A person convicted of a drug felony for a crime that occurred after August 22, 1996, is ineligible for TANF; however, the other members of his or her family continue to be eligible for benefits.

Are children born while their mother was receiving TANF eligible for a TANF check?

No. Generally, a child born while his or her mother was receiving TANF is ineligible for TANF benefits, unless:

(1) the child's mother was a minor at the time of the birth;

(2) the child was conceived as the result of rape or incest; or

(3) the child lives with a relative other than his or her parent.

The disqualification from receiving TANF while living with a parent lasts until the child reaches adulthood.

The assets and income (including child support) of a disqualified child are not considered in determining whether the other members of the family are eligible for TANF.

Last Review and Update: Nov 21, 2002