Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Apply for Benefits

How to Apply

You can apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF):

No matter which way you apply, you can use this same application to apply for TANF (sometimes called Cash Assistance), SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), Medicaid, and other benefits programs. If you need help deciding how to apply, call the Illinois Department of Human Services Help Line at 1-800-843-6154.

What You Need to Apply

When you apply for TANF, you might need:

  • Your identification and proof of citizenship (or of your legal immigration status), such as your driver's license, ID card, resident card, or U.S. Passport. (Required if you apply with a paper application.)
  • Full names and dates of birth for everyone who is applying for benefits and for any other people living in the household.
  • Social Security numbers for you and everyone in your household who has a Social Security number. (Required if you apply with a paper application.)
  • Documents showing all income for anyone 18 or older in your household, like pay stubs or a letter from the employer. (Proof of income is also required if you are under 18 and the parent of a child.)
  • Documents showing any unearned income, such as unemployment benefits, child support payments, etc.
  • Proof of your relationship to everyone included on your application, like a birth certificate for your child or other documents.
  • Documents showing any child or spousal support paid and the names of absent parents.

You may need to provide copies of other documents, depending on your situation. Learn more in the frequently asked questions section of the Application for Benefits Eligibility website.

Crisis Assistance

If you qualify for TANF (even if you have not yet been officially approved for benefits), the Crisis Assistance program may be able give you quick help (within 5 days), if you are in urgent need because:

  • You've experienced a fire, flood, or other natural disaster
  • You were evicted, or ordered by a court order to leave your home
  • You're a survivor of domestic or sexual violence
  • Your cash was lost or stolen
  • You need a place to stay overnight, or
  • You need transportation in order to get medical care (non-routine).

Depending on your situation, you may be able to get help with rent, furniture, household supplies, clothing, food, lodging, or transportation. Learn more about Crisis Assistance.

After You Apply

Once TANF gets your application, the next step is an interview (called a family assessment) with a caseworker. The caseworker will usually ask you about your:

  • Family and living situation
  • Income
  • Transportation
  • Work history and future plans
  • Skills
  • Education

Your caseworker needs enough details to know if you and your family qualify for benefits, and what type of services you need. Your caseworker will also check to be sure you have turned in all the documents needed to support your application.

Once a decision has been made, you will be told by letter whether or not you qualify for TANF benefits. (It can take up to 45 days for the state to make this decision, and the decision letter can be sent to you up to two days after the decision is made.)

If you are approved, there is a 30 day wait before you start getting TANF benefits; your benefits don't start until day 31 (from the day they get your application), and there is no back payment for those first 30 days. If you need help sooner, ask if you qualify for Crisis Assistance.

Child care

Be sure to tell the caseworker if you need child care for a child (or children) 13 or younger. They can refer you to the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).

Learn more about who can get TANF benefits and understanding your TANF benefits.

Learn more