January 3, 2019

Aid to needy families increases, but still below 60% of poverty line

Center on Budget & Policy Priorities -More than a dozen states and the District of Columbia have increased cash benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program for this year or next. Nevertheless, TANF benefits will still be at or below 60 percent of the poverty line in every state, as our latest report shows. Furthermore, despite these increases, black families are likelier than white families to live in states with historically low benefit levels, leaving them with far less than they need to meet their basic needs.

Under TANF, states have great flexibility in how much they provide in direct financial assistance to poor families.

Fifty-three percent of the nation’s black people live in a state with benefits at or below 20 percent of the poverty line. Only 39 percent of white people live in these same states. In 1996, all of these states were among those with the lowest benefit levels. Since then, their benefits as share of the poverty line have fallen, and many of them haven’t increased benefits in recent years.

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