State Welfare Reforms: TANF Time Limits by the Numbers

On July 1, 2016, Arizona will become the first state in the nation to limit lifetime welfare benefits to twelve months. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed SB 1479 in to law in 2015, which is expected to save the state between $4 million and $9 million. Arizona had a $1 billion deficit in 2015.  Arizona officials estimate 15 percent of those receiving cash assistance—1,200 to 1,600 families—will be affected, according to the New York Times.

TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, was a large piece of the 1996 welfare reform law passed by a Republican-led Congress and signed by President Clinton.  The program, in which the federal government provides time-limited cash assistance to working families through block grants to the states, replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), which similarly provided cash assistance but did not have work requirements or time limits.

While the 1996 reforms set a lifetime maximum of 60 months of benefits for TANF recipients, the states were allowed to set further restrictions.  Some states have opted to set the lifetime limit lower than the federal limit, while others have restricted the maximum number of months that TANF benefits can be continuously received in a given period of time.

How does Arizona compare to other states in terms of placing restrictions on TANF benefit time limits?  Here’s a state-by-state overview.