There are a number of government programs that provide aid to families in need. In Arizona, custodial parents with a dependent child who does not receive child support can receive cash aid from Arizona Cash Assistance, a state-run TANF program. Qualifying for cash assistance is relatively simple, though it is a time-limited program (5 years) and there are employment (or employment-seeking) requirements for the responsible adult.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
TANF is a federal government assistance program that provides financial support for low-income families with dependent children. The program allows states to establish their own assistance program and offers federal grants to support the state-run programs.
The TANF program was designed to accomplish four primary goals:
- To encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families
- To end the dependency of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage
- To prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies
- To provide assistance to needy families so that children can be cared for in their own home, or in a relative’s home
Arizona Cash Assistance Program
Arizona Cash Assistance, a division of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, is the state-run TANF program in Arizona. The program has a 5-year (60 month) duration limit, and imposes the following eligibility requirements:
- Monthly household income cannot exceed 130% of the US poverty line
- The parent must be a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident
- The family must physically reside in the state of Arizona
- The parent must have extremely limited resources available (i.e. limited cash savings)
Furthermore, program participants are required to complete and sign a Personal Responsibility Agreement. This agreement mandates compliance with the Jobs Program, DES Child Support Services, school attendance, and child immunizations (if applicable).
Income Eligibility Guidelines
In order to focus the program’s limited resources on the families who need cash aid the most, the Arizona Cash Assistance Program only approves applicants with a household income of less than 130% of the US poverty line. Based on the most recent guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services, that translates into the following income which can be found here depending on your state.
What you Need to Apply for Cash Aid
Whether you’re a first-time applicant or need to renew your benefits, you’ll need the following documents and information to complete the application:
- A copy of your final paycheck/paystub
- A statement verifying the beneficiaries’ names and addresses, and the information of anyone else who is living in the home (the statement must be signed and dated by a non-relative who doesn’t live in the home, and should include the signer’s address and phone number)
- Bank statements from the previous month
- Contact information for your residential reference, who may be your landlord or neighbor (include their name, address, and phone number)
- Evidence of childcare expenses from the previous month
- Evidence of household income from all sources for the current and previous month
- Evidence that your employment ended
- If one or more beneficiaries are a lawful permanent resident, include a copy of their Alien Registration Card or Green Card
- Proof of citizenship and identity for the beneficiaries (such as a birth certificate)
- Proof of relationship (such as a child’s birth certificate that lists your name)
- Recent statements for any life insurance, retirement plans, securities, or savings bonds
- Social Security numbers for each beneficiary (or proof that there is a pending application for a Social Security number)
- The most recent rent or mortgage statement/payment
- Utility bills from the previous month
The Eligibility Interview
After you submit your application for cash aid, you’ll need to complete an eligibility interview by phone or at the nearest field office. When you attend the interview, be sure to bring your proof of citizenship, Social Security numbers, and financial documents to verify your income. At the conclusion of the interview, the representative will let you know if the state needs any additional documentation to review your case. Assuming the interview goes well, your case will then be referred back to the home office for a final review.
Receiving a Decision
Generally speaking, you should receive a response from Arizona Cash Assistance within 45 days of filing your application. The agency issues decisions by mail, though you may also monitor the status of your case online with Health-e-Arizona Plus or MyFamilyBenefits.
Once you are approved, you’ll be required to report any changes that may affect your eligibility for the Arizona Cash Assistance Program. This includes any changes in child support, as child support payments are considered a source of household income. Your approval letter will indicate whether your case requires standard or simple reporting.
How Does Child Support Affect Eligibility for Arizona Cash Assistance?
Child support can have a significant impact on your eligibility for Arizona Cash Assistance. If you receive child support payments, these payments must be included in your household income. If you have a child support order but the non-custodial parent isn’t making payments, the state will take action to enforce the child support order. If you don’t have a child support order at all, the state will open a case to seek child support on your behalf.
In any case, program participants generally cannot receive private child support payments while receiving cash aid. Instead, the child support payments would need to be directed to Arizona Child Support Services to reimburse the state for its Cash Assistance payments to the custodial parent.
Note that if you have not named your child’s father, Arizona Child Support Services will require you to do so before you can receive Cash Assistance benefits. When you identify the father, the state will likely order a paternity test to confirm. Refusing to name the father may disqualify you from receiving Cash Assistance, unless you are refraining from association with the father due to domestic violence.
Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.