TANF and Deprivation

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One of the eligibility rules for TANF benefits is what is called “deprivation.” A family must demonstrate that their children are “deprived of the care and support of a natural or adoptive parent for at least 30 days beyond the date of application.” In the majority of cases, this means that one parent is absent from the home and does not play an equal role in the care and guidance of the child(ren). However, deprivation can also be present if there is a two parent household and one parent is disabled or is unemployed or underemployed. We’ll explain more about each type of deprivation below.

Single Parent Households

In a large percentage of families that receive TANF benefits the deprivation standard is met by the fact that one parent is absent from the household and does not assume an equal responsibility for the maintenance, care, and guidance of the child(ren). Deprivation may also be found in cases where the parents have joint custody of the children if actual family circumstances show that the parent applying for TANF assistance has more responsibility for the maintenance, care and guidance of the child than the other parent. This decision is not simply based on the amount of time that the children spend in each home but rather on the amount of responsibility each parent takes for raising the child. For example, parents have 50/50 custody of a school age child and the child spends one week with Dad and the next week with Mom. Deprivation may still exist if:

  • Parent One continues to provide transportation to and from school during the time the children spend with the other parent.
  • Parent One takes care of children after school and helps with homework till the other parent gets home from work.
  • If children are injured or sick Parent One is the parent that takes the child to the doctor or hospital, regardless of where the injury or illness occurred.
  • Parent One makes decisions about health care, education, play dates, etc. without input from the other parent.

Any ONE of these factors alone may not constitute deprivation. However, a combination of these factors or other similar factors would likely meet the deprivation requirement.

Two Parent Households

In households where both parents live with their mutual children, there are two programs under which the families may be eligible for TANF benefits: TANF for Unemployed Parents for households where a parent is unemployed or under employed and TANF-Incapacity for households where one parent is incapacitated.

TANF for Incapacitated Parents

If one parent in the household is physically or mentally incapacitated to the extent that it substantially reduces or eliminates the ability of that parent to support or care for a child, then deprivation would exist.Receipt of SSI, Social Security Disability, Railroad Retirement Disability, or Medicaid based on disability is proof of incapacity. But, the incapacity does not have to be as severe or permanent as it would to qualify for a program like SSI. For example, if a parent is in an accident and cannot work at least 20 hours a week for two or three months the parent would probably be considered “incapacitated.”

TANF for Unemployed or Underemployed Parents (TANF-UP)

To determine eligibility under the TANF UP program, you must first determine which parent is considered the Primary Wage Earner (PWE). You do this simply by looking at which parent earned the most money in the 24 month period prior to application for assistance.

To be eligible, the PWE must have worked less than 100 hours within the 30 day period prior to the date of application or eligibility, whichever comes later; and must expect to work less than 130 hours in the next 30 days and subsequent 30 day periods. This includes self-employed individuals.

The next step to evaluate eligibility is to determine if the PWE has at least six or more quarters of work in any 13 calendar quarters, ending within one year of the date of application. A calendar quarter is the period from January 1 - March 31, April 1 - June 30, July 1 - September 30, and October 1 - December 31. The PWE must have earned at least $50 in 6 of the last 13 calendar quarters. Any type of verifiable employment counts, including self employment, babysitting, lawn care, as well as any traditional kind of employment at stores, restaurants, etc.

A household may also be eligible for TANF-UP if the PWE has received or been qualified to receive unemployment benefits within one year prior to application for assistance.

Prepared by
Maine Equal Justice
126 Sewall Street, Augusta, Maine 04330
Toll Free: 1-866-626-7059; Local: 626-7058

March 2010

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