Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Work, Benefits, and You

Working with TANF

After your application for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is approved, you must work with a caseworker to create a Responsibility and Services Plan (RSP), listing everything you need to become more financially stable. If you have a disability, your RSP will be designed to meet your specific needs, rather than focusing on finding work.

A caseworker talks with you to decide what services, training, or other support you and your family need. This can include questions about:

  • Family
  • Housing
  • Work experience, including internships
  • Anything in your life that prevents you from working
  • Basic job skills (you may be asked to take tests)
  • Education and training
  • Interests
  • Need for transportation to your job, schools, or place of childcare
  • Need for child care
  • Health issues
  • Past legal troubles (if any)

Tell the caseworker about anything you might need, from counseling to car repairs, a bus pass, school supplies, or diapers. If the caseworker can't help you with those, they may be able to tell you where you can get the help you need.

Based on your answers, you and the caseworker create your RSP.

Your Responsibility and Services Plan (RSP)

Your RSP should include:

  • Everything you agree to do while getting TANF benefits, and
  • Everything the state agrees to do to help you.

You need to work with the caseworker to make sure your RSP meets your needs and includes goals that you can do and want to do. This can include:

  • The kind of job you plan to find, including how much time you have to get that job.
  • Which work activities you must do.
  • Anything you and your family need, like SNAP, child care, medical insurance, transportation, housing, school supplies, drug or alcohol treatment, or counseling.
  • The date you have to have everything done.

As you meet some of the goals on your RSP, or if your family's needs change over time, you and your caseworker will create a new RSP. In your new RSP, you will list the next steps needed to help you and your family become more self-sufficient. For example, your first RSP might list what you need to do to finish your education, and after you finish school your next RSP would list what you need to do to look for work.

Note: Your RSP looks different if you have a disability or someone you are caring for has a disability, and the TANF 60-month time limit might be extended.

Work Activities

If you are considered work eligible, your RSP will include doing a certain number of "work activity" hours each week. These can be:

  • Unsubsidized employment
  • Subsidized employment
  • Work experience
  • Actively looking for a job
  • On-the-job training
  • Vocational training
  • Community service
  • Job skills training directly related to getting a job
  • Education directly related to getting a job

The work activities listed in your RSP can be based on your situation. For example, if you are at risk of homelessness, your RSP may include taking specific steps to find stable housing. If your children have health problems, your plan could include getting them medical care.

Note: If you or someone you care for has a disability, your RSP could include activities like applying for disability benefits or getting medical care.


If you get TANF benefits and you do not have any earned income, you are sent a Redetermination form every 12 months to see if you still qualify for benefits. You must also report any changes to your income or living situation by the 10th day after the change (see below).

If you do have earned income, you are sent a Mid-Point Report (MPR) form in your fifth month and a Redetermination form in your 10th month of benefits. You must report any changes to your household, job status, other income, and expenses on these forms, and provide proof of your current work hours.

To keep getting TANF benefits, both forms must be completed and returned by the due date (the MPR is due the second day of your sixth month; the Redetermination form is due the 15th day of your 12th month).

After submitting the forms, you must have an interview with a caseworker to complete the process and continue getting TANF benefits.

Reporting changes

You must report to TANF if:

  • Your income goes up or down, or you have a new source of income.
  • You move to a new address.
  • Someone leaves or joins your household.

You can report these changes:

If you only need to report a change of address (and nothing else) you can do that online using your Illinois Link Card account.

Typically you need to report a change within 10 days of learning about the change. However, if you have earned income and your status is "Mid-Point Reporter" (see Redetermination above) you can wait and report any changes to your income on either your Mid-Point Report (MPR) or Redetermination form.

Note: If your income goes down, report it immediately even if you are a Mid-Point Reporter (don't wait for the MPR or Redetermination form), because your benefits might go up.

If you are not sure about your reporting status, contact your local DHS Family Community Resource Center.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

If you work and earn a little money, Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs) might help lower your federal and state income taxes. Even if you don’t earn enough money to have to pay federal and state income taxes, you might get money back through the federal and state EITCs. Many people who qualify for EITCs don’t get them, because they don’t know they could, or they don't file their taxes. A TANF caseworker can help you decide if you might qualify for the EITCs, and how to get help filing your taxes. Learn more about EITCs and other tax credits in DB101's article on Building Your Assets and Wealth.

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