Thus, a single parent who has received TANF assistance for over 2 years must ''work'' for at least 20 hours per week (35 hours per week for a two-parent family) in one or more of the following activities: paid or unpaid employment, education (for teenage parents), on-the-job training, participating in or providing child care to individuals in community service activities, attending vocational training, or participating in job search assistance for up to 6 weeks. To avoid financial penalties, states are required to have at least 25 percent of single-parent recipients (with the exception of exempted families) participating in work activities in 1997. The proportion of adults who must be participating in work activities increases by 5 percent each year until it reaches 50 percent in 2002.2

After 5 cumulative years of receiving assistance under a state program funded by the TANF grant, adults are ineligible for TANF assistance. States may use their own funds to provide assistance after the 5-year limit and may exempt up to 20 percent of the adult caseload from the lifetime limit. Child-only cases are not subject to the 5-year limit.

Additional requirements are placed on teenage parents. To receive assistance, they must participate in educational activities directed toward receiving a high school diploma or general educational development (GED) certificate, and they must live with an adult or in an approved, adult-supervised setting.

Supplemental Security Income

PRWORA establishes a more restrictive disability standard for children to receive SSI. (The SSI program provides benefits according to federal standards for poor elderly individuals and couples and for poor nonelderly blind and disabled people.) Under the new definition, which eliminates the individual functional assessment and all references to maladaptive behavior, a child is considered to be disabled only if she or he has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that results in marked functional limitations.

Food Stamp Program

Although the federal Food Stamp Program retains its current structure as an uncapped, individual entitlement, there are a number of substantial changes to it. In addition to reducing benefits to all recipients and restricting benefits to legal immigrants (see Appendix B), PRWORA imposes strict work requirements on able-bodied adults without dependents. In particular, recipients aged 18-50 with no dependents may receive food stamp benefits for only 3 months in every 36-month period unless they are working or participating in work programs for at least 20 hours per week.3 If a recipient finds work and then loses his or her job, an additional 3 months of benefits are allowed. Local jurisdictions with unemployment rates exceeding 10 percent or "insufficient jobs" can receive waivers from these provisions.

In addition to the changes to the basic federal Food Stamp Program, a number of provisions in PRWORA enable state experimentation. States may operate a "simplified food stamp program,"


A state must reduce assistance to a family pro rata (or more, at state option) for any period in which an adult member of the family refuses to engage in work as required under the TANF grant. A state will be penalized by a grant reduction of 5 percent the first year it fails to meet minimum federally established participation rates. For consecutive failures, penalties rise by 2 percent each year with a cap of a 21 percent reduction in the TANF block grant amount.


Qualifying work programs include programs under the Job Training Partnership Act, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act, and workfare; job search programs do not qualify.

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