Recommended Standards for TANF Payment Card Contracts

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Families participating in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF/cash assistance) often must pay significant fees and surcharges to withdraw their benefits at an ATM. In California, fees charged to recipients of TANF and other public assistance programs added up to $19 million in 2012, according to a new report from the California Reinvestment Coalition. Since families’ average monthly grants are only a few hundred dollars, these small fees can have a significant impact on their ability to make ends meet. This memo provides recommendations on how states can protect TANF households' interests in contracts with benefit card providers and make sure taxpayer funds are going to needy families—not banks.

Authors:

Aleta Sprague is a program fellow with the Family-Centered Social Policy program at New America. Sprague's work focuses on promoting financial inclusion in public assistance programs. She is a member of the California and New York state bars and currently works as a Legal Analyst at the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at UCLA.

Elizabeth Lower-Basch