Choices Guide – A-400: TANF Time-Limited Benefits and Exemptions

A-401: TANF Time-Limited Benefits

(Revision 10/2016)

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PWORA) established a 60-month lifetime maximum limit on federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for families. The federal legislation prohibits states from using TANF funds to provide assistance to a family that includes an adult who received federal TANF assistance benefits for 60 cumulative months.

A-401.a: 60-Month Federal Time Limit 

The federal lifetime limit applies to an entire family and is based on the number of months the family receives cash assistance. The federal time limit begins the first month a family receives TANF benefits. The 60-month federal time limit went into effect for all TANF individuals October 1, 1999, unless an individual was previously outreached. Before that date, the 60-month clock began upon notification of benefits.

The following have no effect on federal time limits:

When a family reaches the federal time limit, there is a lifetime TANF freeze-out for the family unless the family receives a federal hardship exemption.

A-401.b: State Time Limit

State time limits apply to the TANF cash benefits received by certified caretakers and second parents who have access to Choices. State time limits apply only to recipients who were outreached or who voluntarily participate in Choices. When a recipient’s state time limit expires, the state imposes a five-year freeze-out for the adult; children on the case, however, remain eligible. 

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A-402: Time Limit Tiers: 12-, 24- and 36-Month State Time Limits

(Revision 10/2016)

The state has a time limit of 12, 24 or 36 months, based on an individual’s education, functional literacy level and work experience. Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) determines an individual’s state time limit. State time limits apply only to adult Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients who are mandatory or who are exempt and voluntarily participate in Choices. When a TANF recipient’s state time limits expire, the state imposes a five-year freeze-out for the adult; benefits for the children, however, continue.

There are three time limits, known as tiers. Tiers, with their corresponding state time limits, are defined as follows:

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A-403: TANF State Program State Lifetime Limit

(Revision 10/2016)

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families State Program (TANF-SP), created specifically for two-parent households, is a state-funded program and is not subject to federal time limits.

Each TANF-SP adult has a 60-month state time limit. The time-limit clock starts ticking with the initial receipt of benefits.

For two-parent families, any month of TANF benefits subject to state time limits since October 1, 2001, counts toward the family’s lifetime cap, regardless of which parent received the benefits.

TANF-SP is substantively identical to Choices in terms of eligibility, work requirements, exemptions, time limits and health-related services.

A-403.a: Redetermining State Time Limits

State time limits may change if the individual’s functional literacy level score is lower than the individual’s completed education level. The individual’s literacy is assessed using Tests of Adult Basic Education or SUPERA® and does not have any bearing on the federal 60-month time limit.

Boards must ensure that Workforce Solutions Office staff reports the literacy test results in grade-level terms in The Workforce Information System of Texas (TWIST), and TWIST transfers the results to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission system. This may result in a state time-limit change, but only if the original state time limit was based on education level and not work history.

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