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Cash Welfare Spending

The U.S. Congress created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in 1996 as a successor to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Both programs provided cash assistance to poor American families with dependent children through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program is funded in large part by a federal block grant. In 2011, the federal government spent $17.28 billion on TANF, covering roughly 4.4 million recipients, including more than 14,000 Maine residents.

States contribute a modest amount to total TANF spending and have a great degree of latitude in implementing the welfare program. For example, although the original federal law called for a 60-month lifetime limit on receiving benefits, the state of Maine did not enforce this regulation until January of 2012. Maine has also placed additional requirements on the receipt of TANF benefits, such as participation in work force training and education programs. Several bills pending in the current legislative session would enact additional requirements on those seeking cash welfare assistance.

The Maine Wire obtained the following data pursuant to a Freedom of Access Act request submitted in February of 2013. The data, which includes more than one million transactions funded by the TANF cash welfare program from 2011 to November of 2013, is made available here in its entirety. For analysis of the data see the following:

Maine welfare cash spent in all 50 states Puerto Rico, and the U.S Virgin Islands

Maine welfare cash spent at liquor stores, strip clubs and smoke shops

Users should understand that this data includes both point of sale transactions and cash withdrawals.

Disclaimer: The data presented below is only as reliable as Department of Health and Human Services record keeping.

Note: Additional information on state spending can be found at

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