TANF for working families

This should help you understand how working affects your family’s eligibility for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and other public benefits. #7137EN

Please Note:

Read this only if you live in the state of Washington.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, to learn how working affects your eligibility to get TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and other public benefits.

Maybe. You can still get a partial grant if your “countable income” (see box below) is less than the TANF grant amount for your family size. Once your countable income is equal to or more than the grant amount for your family size, DSHS ends your grant.

*Countable income is your income after DSHS deducts half your earnings and some other kinds of income they do not count.

DSHS looks at the income you expect to get in the following month to figure out how much TANF benefits they will give you that month. DSHS can count only half of your earnings before deductions (gross income) against your TANF grant. DSHS subtracts your countable income from the amount of your regular grant.


Example: for a family of 3 with anticipated gross earnings of $1,000 in April:

Step 1:
        $1,000        gross earnings expected in April
x     .5                   50% of gross income counted
=     $500            countable income for April

Step 2:
        $569            regular grant
     500              countable income for April                        
=     $69              grant provided in April


Maybe not. Even with a small grant amount, the 60-month lifetime limit on your TANF benefits is running. You must decide if it is better for your family to go off TANF at that point. Read Questions and Answers on the TANF 5-Year Time Limit to learn more.


If you go off TANF, you and your children may still be eligible to get medical, food stamp, and childcare benefits. These do not count toward the 60 months.

DSHS must add to your grant if it made a mistake calculating your earnings or grant amount.

  • If you make less than you had expected: DSHS does not have to add to your grant.
  • If you earn more than you expected: you will not have to pay DSHS back if you correctly reported what you expected to earn.

Your responsibility for doing this starts on the date you get the paycheck showing the change of income. You must report any changes in your income, up or down, by the 10th of the month after the change. DSHS will adjust your TANF grant for the following month.

Maybe. When you get TANF, you sign over to (assign) the State your right to child support. If the other parent pays more support than the amount of TANF you get, you get the remainder directly. It will not count against your TANF.

*As of February 1, 2021, TANF households are eligible to get this child support ”pass-through” up to $50 each month for households with 1 child, and up to $100 for households with 2 or more children The amount of pass-through will not be more than what DCS collects during the month.

If child support is more than your TANF for 2 months in a row, your TANF benefits will end at the end of the 3rd month. Then all child support goes directly to you. Depending on how much you get, you may still be able to get food and medical assistance.


Maybe not. DSHS does not count other kinds of income when figuring your TANF grant. These include:


  • work-study income
  • bona fide loans
  • federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) payments
  • DSHS emergency cash grants under the Additional Requirements for Emergent Need (AREN) program—read Additional Requirements (AR): Emergency Cash Help to learn more




Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) is the DSHS program that helps pay childcare expenses for families with low incomes. You are eligible if your gross income (both earned and unearned) is below 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL) for your family size. WCCC is available for:

  • children under age 13
  • children between ages 13 and 19 if a medical provider gives a statement that the child is physically, mentally, or emotionally unable to care for themselves
  • children between ages 13 and 19 under court supervision

You must pay a “co-payment” for part of the childcare costs. The co-payment is based on your income level. The minimum co-pay is $15. You must pay it even if you get full TANF.

*Read Working Connections Child Care to learn more.

Food stamps: For every $3 you earn, DSHS cuts your food stamps by about $1. If your income goes up so much that DSHS stops your food stamps, you must reapply if your income goes down again.

Medicaid/Apple Health: If you are on Apple Health, you may have to report your change in income. More income may mean you lose Apple Health. Call Healthplanfinder Customer Support Center (HPF CSC) at 1-855-923-4633 to find out more. 

Maybe. For the first 12 months (year) after your TANF ends, you can get WorkFirst support services. DSHS can pay for support services and goods when you need them to be able to look for, prepare for, or keep work. Examples include:

  • money for vehicle liability insurance
  • car repair
  • work tools
  • clothes for work

Read DSHS Support Services for WorkFirst Participants to learn more.

You can get post-employment services for 24 months (2 years) after leaving TANF if your region funds this. Call your local DSHS office to ask about:

  • “employment retention services” (to help you keep your job) like job coaching
  • “wage and skill progression services” like job and career counseling
  • “training and skill progression services” like vocational education training, Adult Basic Education (ABE), or English as a Second Language (ESL)

Fill out a “stop work” form at DSHS right away. This written statement from your employer says:

  • the last day you worked
  • the date and amount of your last paycheck

If your earnings cause you to lose TANF and then you lose your job, you can reapply for TANF. DSHS may consider why you stopped working. It may recommend diversion cash assistance (DCA) instead of TANF. See below.

This grant gives your family up to $1,250 to help support you until you are working again. You can get it only once in a 12-month period. You must pay it back if your family goes back on TANF within 12 months of getting the diversion grant.


If you are eligible to get TANF or State Family Assistance (SFA), you can get DCA, but you must choose between getting TANF or SFA, and DCA. Read Diversion Cash Assistance to learn more.

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

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Last Review and Update: Sep 22, 2021
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