Work First NJ / Temporary Assistance to Needy Families

The WFNJ/TANF assistance program is designed specifically to emphasize personal responsibility, instill dignity, promote self-sufficiency and pride through work, and strongly reinforce all parents’ responsibility for their children through strict enforcement of child support requirements. WFNJ/TANF clearly recognizes that both parents, whether or not they are the custodial caretakers of their children, share fully and equally in the responsibility for the financial support of the children. All adults have as their primary responsibility the support of both themselves and their families.

Aside from certain categories of Federally-exempt individuals, assistance benefits provided to adults under the WFNJ/TANF program are limited to a lifetime maximum of 60 cumulative months, and are considered a temporary cash subsidy to bridge the gap while individuals seek and obtain self-sufficiency through unsubsidized employment.

Program Goals

  • Provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives or legal guardians.
  • End the dependence of needy parents on government by promoting job preparation, work and marriage, and by establishing paternity and child support orders, obtaining health insurance coverage and enforcing and modifying support obligations.
  • Prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and establish annual goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies.
  • Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.
  • Address the work readiness needs of welfare recipients and non-custodial parents.
  • Divert able-bodied work-ready families from the traditional welfare system by providing intervention and support services to help ensure the economic independence of these families.
  • Provide a variety of post-TANF supportive services to former welfare families to help them maintain their independence from the welfare cash assistance program and improve their family circumstances.
  • Identify cash assistance recipients with a past or present history of family violence and provide a waiver of program requirements and access to appropriate supportive services so the family can move toward self sufficiency in a safe and enriching environment.
  • Provide work activity and support services to selected absent parents so they can better contribute to the support of their children.


The Primary Objectives of the WFNJ/TANF Program:

  • To make work the channel by which temporary cash assistance and other services will be made available.
  • To emphasize that the responsibility of individuals is to support themselves and their families through wages and child support.
  • To actively engage the cooperation and assistance of private and public employers to maximize available employment opportunities for WFNJ/TANF participants.
  • To establish and implement, through the concept of mutual obligation, an Individual Responsibility Plan for all WFNJ/TANF recipients, including teen parents, which is directed at moving recipients off welfare into employment.
  • To maximize the monetary support of non-custodial parents to help ensure the ongoing self-sufficiency of WFNJ/TANF participants.
  • To address the work-readiness needs of individuals who have not completed a high school education, or it’s equivalent, through the provision of alternative work programs combining education and a job experience.
  • To provide assistance to welfare recipients to address problems of drug and alcohol abuse through assessment and appropriate treatment to enable these recipients to resolve their problem(s) and become self-sufficient through work.
  • To conduct a Substance Abuse Research Demonstration (SARD) program to determine the long-term impact of substance abuse intervention on welfare recipients.
  • To conduct an evaluation of the WFNJ program, and its impact on clients, in order to enhance future planning and program development efforts.
  • To conduct extensive training of welfare staff in the dynamics of family violence and provide assistance to welfare recipients to address issues of family violence through assessments that include, safety and service plan, that lead to work or participation in a work activity, to the extent possible.
  • To coordinate and maximize the use of all public, private and community resources available through all levels of government and the private sector, to provide necessary services and supports to ensure that cash assistance recipients and select non-custodial parents secure and keep a job, and do not cycle back onto public assistance.
  • To provide a variety of viable choices and options to meet WFNJ/TANF participants’ diverse child care needs during their work activities.
  • To provide for a smarter and more efficient administration of all elements of the service delivery system through enhanced child support enforcement, delivery of benefits via an electronic benefit program, and structuring the child care service delivery system by maintaining a single entity to coordinate and administer the provision of all child care services.
  • To provide a non-assistance cash payment as well as supportive services through our Early Employment Initiative to individuals who applied for cash assistance benefits. These individuals otherwise would be eligible, except for their immediate success in securing employment prior to the case being granted cash assistance benefits.
  • To provide special assistance and services to unemployable welfare recipients in their pursuit of application for Social Security Income to speed their acceptance into the SSI program.
  • To provide working families with income below 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level with emergency services to prevent homelessness, stabilize housing, and/or prevent movement into the welfare cash assistance program.
  • To provide enhanced housing assistance services to non-employable WFNJ cash assistance recipients who have utilized all housing benefits available.
  • To provide enhanced post-TANF supports such as child care, transportation, housing, medical assistance and case management to help ensure recipients do not return to the cash assistance welfare program.
  • To provide transportation services to income-eligible families to support work.