The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides grants to states to design and operate programs that support low-income families, including through increased access to child care and early education opportunities, which helps parents to enter or return to the workforce.

Since its creation in 1996 as a replacement for Aid to Families with Dependent Children, federal regulations and guidance have allowed TANF funds to support or expand a broad range of child care and early education initiatives in states. Among other uses, current law allows states to transfer up to 30% of their TANF funds to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Further, regulatory guidance specifically allows states to spend TANF funds for early education.

While states have great discretion in how to spend their block grant funds, they must do so consistent with the four purposes of the law. Additionally, TANF funding is intended to supplement, not supplant, initiatives underway in states and territories to broaden educational supports, including child care, pre-kindergarten, Head Start and kindergarten.

TANF was last reauthorized in 2006 and expired on Sept. 30, 2018, but has subsequently received numerous extensions. As Congress considers reauthorization of TANF, there is a significant opportunity to recognize the unmistakable role quality early childhood experiences play in helping to break the cycle of poverty.

FFYF believes this can be done by reinforcing the connection between federal dollars and quality programs, including expanding connections to CCDBG for all TANF-funded child care; identifying ways to sustain child care funding in order to support TANF families; protecting states’ ability to use federal funds to strengthen their own early care and learning initiatives; and ensuring states are supplementing rather than supplanting their own spending with TANF dollars.


TANF was extended through the end of FY2021 as part of H.R. 133, a package of bills enacted in December 2020 that also included annual government appropriations and COVID-19 relief.

It was further extended through December 3, 2021 by H.R. 5305.

Current Use of Funds:

In FY2019, 48 states and the District of Columbia transferred some amount of their TANF funds to early care and learning programs. In total, $7.6 billion of federal TANF funds and state maintenance of effort (MOE) funds went to early care and learning expenditures. Learn more about how states leveraged TANF funds in FY2019 to support early care and learning.

Click here for an overview of FY2021 funding levels for other early childhood education and care programs.