Are You Working and Getting TANF?

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Here is how to figure your TANF Grant!

Step 1: How much of your income will DHHS count?

To figure TANF checks for all working families receiving TANF, DHHS disregards (doesn't count) earnings equal to $108, plus half (50%) of your remaining earnings. The amount remaining is your "countable income."

For example, if you earn $1,000 a month, DHHS will count only $446 of your earnings in figuring your monthly TANF check. ($1,000 - $108 = $892 x .50 = $446 in "countable income").

Step 2: Figure the amount fo your TANF check.

DHHS has a chart with a "Standard of Need" amount and a lower "Maximum Payment" amount for families of different sizes. Here is the chart.

Family Size






Standard of Need






Maximum Payment






To figure your TANF check, DHHS subtracts your "countable income" from the Standard of Need. This difference or the Maximum Payment (whichever is lower) will be the amount of your TANF check.

Other factors affecting your TANF grant

Other factors can affect the amount of your monthly TANF check.

Other Income: If your family has other income in addition to wages from work, figuring out your TANF grant is more complicated because different types of income are treated differently. For example:

  • Child Support is sent to DHHS by the absent parent and DHHS sends the first $50 per month to you as a $50 "pass-through." Then some of what's left may be sent to you as a "gap" payment. If you have earned income, your "gap" payment will probably be reduced or eliminated.
  • If a stepparent is in the household, his or her income can affect your grant, but not all of it is "countable."
  • SSI income is not counted at all in figuring your TANF grant, but the person receiving SSI is not counted in your family size.
  • Other unearned income like worker's compensation, social security, or unemployment benefits are all counted fully (no disregards will be taken) in your "countable income."

Housing Costs: If you have high housing costs, you may be able to get a "housing special need" payment of $100 a month in addition to your basic check. You have high housing costs if your rent or mortgage (including taxes and homeowner insurance) are equal to or more than 75% of your income. If you qualify for this payment, add $100 to both the Standard of Need and Maximum Payment for your family size before you calculate your TANF grant.

In these case we recommend that you ask your TANF worker about how they figure your TANF grant.

What about my Food Stamps?

When your family income goes up, you will lose some of your Food Stamps, but you will still get ahead overall. This is because DHHS will ignore some of your new income in figuring out the amount of your Food Stamps. A very rough rule of thumb is: for every $3 your income increases, you lose $1 in food stamps. Pine Tree Legal posts a food stamps estimator, to help you figure out what your monthly allotment should be.

For more about what will happen with food stamps and other benefits if your earnings increase, go to What Happens to My Benefits When I Get A Job and Leave TANF?

If you have any questions about how your TANF check is calculated, ask your TANF worker to go over the calculation with you. If you still have questions, contact Maine Equal Justice Partners.

March 2009

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