News & Perspectives

TANF and SNAP Responses to COVID-19

18. March 2020 PCG Human Services

The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is having major impacts on states and counties across the U.S. Both the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) present opportunities for states to support families and individuals in need during this emergency.

Public Consulting Group (PCG) can help assess the benefits of utilizing TANF and SNAP options to better serve eligible families and individuals!


Workers who receive lower wages are particularly vulnerable during this COVID-19 emergency.  For many service industry workers, there are not safeguards in place to protect against the impacts of economic downturns.

If COVID-19 continues to spread, in addition to service industry workers, workers in all sectors could be affected financially, as contractors and businesses cut down on workers and/or hours, or close completely.

TANF, a flexible funding source, is a key tool for state and county policy makers, to provide essential resources for citizens.

Some Ways TANF Can Support Vulnerable Populations:

  • Short-Term Emergency Supports

During this global and national COVID-19 emergency, resources can be provided as non-recurrent, short-term benefits for up to four months without being classified as “assistance;” without impacting a family’s time clock or triggering work requirements and child support assignment.

  • Household Economic Supports

TANF can be used to help children remain safe and healthy in their homes. Potential uses include food assistance or SNAP supplements, diapers, utility assistance and rental assistance.

  • Wage Replacement

For some Americans, unemployment insurance might not provide enough coverage to meet basic needs. Many others might not qualify for unemployment insurance at all. TANF can be used to replace lost wages for parents who have been laid off or now have reduced hours. Service, hospitality and transportation industries have been targeted to be impacted the most negatively.

  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

TANF can be used for the creation or one-time expansion of a state’s EITC.

  • Childcare

Some childcare providers might be unable to continue to provide services because of recommendations on how to respond to COVID-19. Other childcare providers might find that providing services during this time is more costly. TANF can be used to support existing childcare centers.

  • Emergency Housing Assistance

The longer the spread of COVID-19 continues, the greater the economic impact. In some cases, families might not be able to maintain their housing. TANF can be used to provide eviction prevention funding to keep people in their homes or provide shelter services.

  • Subsidized Employment

Some employers, particularly small business owners, might struggle to retain employees during an economic downturn. TANF can be used to fund time-limited, subsidized employment programs, so businesses can continue to provide employment; or to prevent the reduction of employment hours below sustainable levels.

  • Virtual Training

PCG's Virtual Employment Readiness Assistant (VERA) portal empowers jobseekers to access an online environment and receive a virtual job readiness experience that mirrors the services available in many TANF and Workforce Career Centers.


States should anticipate a significant increase in SNAP applications, as businesses close or reduce service as a response to COVID-19. To support the increased caseload, states should consider taking advantage of a policy change regarding the use of non-merit staff. On February 6, 2020, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) issued guidelines that offer new flexibility for the utilization of non-merit personnel in SNAP, providing additional options to states in their operation of call centers.

With approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), vendors/private contractors are now available to support several additional functions:

  • Eligibility screening
  • Application assistance
  • Answering client questions about missing information
  • Securing outstanding information
  • Providing verification guidance


Also, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and anticipated to be adopted by the U.S. Senate, implements important changes regarding SNAP:

  • Section 2301 suspends work and work-training requirements. This change eliminates the requirements that limit Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) to receive SNAP for only three out of 36 months in which they are not working nor participating in an approved employment activity.
  • Section 2302 provides states with greater flexibility to support families through SNAP, including:
    • Waivers to provide SNAP benefits to existing households up to the maximum monthly allotment
    • Flexibility for states to manage SNAP applications and caseloads based on what is “practicable under actual conditions in affected areas”


PCG is here to help you navigate all TANF and SNAP options for eligible families and individuals during this COVID-19 emergency!