[Excerpt] The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant was created by the 1996 welfare reform law, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-193). It replaced the program of cash assistance for needy families that dated back to the New Deal, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), and some of its related programs. The enactment of the 1996 welfare reform law was the culmination of a debate about how to overhaul programs providing cash assistance to needy families with children—specifically, those headed by single mothers—that spanned four decades: from the 1960s to the 1990s.
The 1996 welfare law provided both program authority and funding (appropriations) for TANF through the end of FY2002.1 Most of the legislative activity on TANF since 2002 has been to extend the program funding and financing authority for TANF. Most of these extensions did not change TANF policy, though policy changes were included in extensions enacted in 2006, 2010, and 2012. The TANF Extension Act of 2019 (P.L. 116-4) extended TANF funding through June 30, 2019.
This report will begin with a brief overview of the history of the AFDC program and the welfare reform debates of the 1960s to the 1990s. That overview will be followed by a summary of the 1996 welfare reform law and the changes made since 1996. The report concludes with a detailed chronology of TANF legislation.