www.ncdsv.org | 512.407.9020


By Patricia R. Cole, Ph.D.

Some of the same supports and services available to women enrolled in TANF are also available to many low-income individuals and families whose incomes are too high for them to qualify for TANF or who choose not to enroll for other reasons. Most of these supports and services have income eligibility requirements that are not as low as for TANF.

Many low-income families know that TANF now has time limits and other requirements, and they incorrectly assume that most other support programs and services also have time limits and similar other requirements. Others think that when they leave TANF because they have exceeded their time limits or for other reasons, they automatically are not eligible for other programs and services. They are confused in thinking that programs like Food Stamps, Medicaid, and child care are linked to TANF and that if they lose TANF, they also lose access to the other programs or services. It is important that women and families that need and qualify for programs other than TANF are aware of their availability and how to enroll in the programs.


If a family meets TANF requirements but elects not to enroll, they are eligible to get a one-time cash payment of $1,000 to meet specific family emergency needs. The funds can be used for a variety of emergencies, including car or house repairs, clothing for work, or other crises. Recipients of the One-Time Assistance to Needy Families (OTANF) cash payments are not required to participate in employment services, collect child support, or take part in other activities required by TANF. Applications for OTANF are made at the local TDHS office. Families who accept the one-time cash payment must wait twelve months before they are eligible to enroll in TANF or to receive another (OTANF) payment.



From 1995 to 1999, the percentage of Texas families with incomes at or below the federal poverty level who are receiving food stamps has declined significantly. The percentage of poor Texans who DO NOT receive food stamps has increased from 25% in 1995 to 56% in 1999. This is probably due to their confusion about a link between TANF and the Food Stamps program, so they either think they are not eligible, believe the food stamp program has time limits, or believe there are work requirements attached. THE FOOD STAMP PROGRAM IS NOT DEPENDENT ON ENROLLMENT IN TANF AND DOES NOT HAVE TIME LIMITS OR EMPLOYMENT REQUIREMENTS FOR ELIGIBLE FAMILIES.

Family eligibility for food stamps is based primarily on income, although there is also a limit on family assets. Families are eligible for food stamps if their gross income is not above 130% of the federal poverty level, their available resources are not valued at more than $2,000 (or $3,000 if a household member is 60 years or older), and the car they own is not valued above $4,650. In determining resources, the following are exempted:

  • one home and surrounding property,

  • income producing property,

  • vehicles used to transport a physically handicapped person or used more than 50% of the time for income producing purposes, and

  • personal effects (clothes, jewelry, furnishings, household goods, etc.).

Applications for Food Stamps are made at local TDHS offices.

Unemployed, Able-Bodied Persons Without Dependents

While the Food Stamp program has not employment or training requirement and no time limits for families, unemployed individuals who are able-bodied, have no dependents, and are between the ages of 16 and 59 must register for employment services before they are certified as eligible to receive food stamps. After they are certified, they must participate in work or education or training activities. An individual is exempt from registration for employment services if he or she is:

  • Under age 16 or over age 60

  • A regular participant or outpatient in a drug addiction or alcohol treatment program

  • Responsible for the care of a dependent under age 6 or a disabled person

  • Physically or mentally unfit for employment

  • Enrolled in school or training, including an institution of higher education (Note: Some students must meet special student eligibility criteria, determined by the eligibility worker)

  • Already registered in the TANF employment services program

  • Three to six months pregnant, or

  • Employed or self-employed

Persons not participating in a specific work or education program an average of 20 hours per week are limited to an initial three months of eligibility in a 36-month period unless they are exempt for one of the following reasons:

  • Exempt from employment services requirements

  • Physically or mentally unfit to work 20 hours per week

  • The caretaker of a child under 18 and living in the home

  • Pregnant

  • Living in a county with an unemployment rate over 10%

Individuals applying for food stamps have the same income and resources eligibility criteria as for families. Applications are made at local TDHS offices.

Food Stamp Employment and Training (E&T) services for unemployed able-bodied adults without dependents include:

  • directed job search,
  • vocational education/training,
  • non-vocational education/training, and
  • short-term paid training assignments for youth between 16 and 21 years of age.

Additional support services for transportation or mental health and substance abuse programs may be provided if resources are available. Subsidized assistance is available for GED testing and certificates of high school equivalence as well as for counseling. Food stamp applicants or recipients must inform the case manager of service needs.



Medicaid serves low-income families who do not have private health insurance. While TANF recipients meet the eligibility criteria for Medicaid and are enrolled in the Medicaid program when they are deemed eligible for TANF, enrollment in Medicaid does not require enrollment in TANF. The number of families enrolled in Medicaid has dropped significantly since Texas began its welfare reform program, although the number of families that meet Medicaid eligibility requirements has not dropped. Many families mistakenly assume that Medicaid has the same employment requirements and time limits as TANF and that if they go off TANF, they lose Medicaid. It is important that Texans understand that MEDICAID DOES NOT HAVE TIME LIMITS OR WORK REQUIREMENTS AND DOES NOT REQUIRE ENROLLMENT IN TANF.

For families not enrolled in TANF, eligibility criteria for Medicaid differs according to the age of the children and whether the mother is pregnant. Except in the transitional year of employment after they leave TANF, women who are not on TANF rolls do not qualify for Medicaid coverage based on their income, unless they are pregnant and meet income and resource criteria. Medicaid basic income limits are:

Pregnant women and children under age 1

185% of the federal poverty level

Children ages 1 through 5

133% of the federal poverty level

Children ages 6 through 18

100% of the federal poverty level

Persons, including undocumented individuals and some legal permanent residents who do not meet the Medicaid citizenship requirements are eligible only for services to treat emergency medical conditions. To be eligible, they must:

  • Meet all other Medicaid eligibility requirements except citizenship
  • Have been treated for an emergency medical condition, be pregnant, or be a child under 19 years of age.


Families with incomes up to 185% of the federal poverty level are eligible for WIC. Those who show proof of enrollment in Food Stamps or Medicaid are automatically deemed eligible. Otherwise they need to bring proof of income, which may include paychecks, tax returns, or a letter from an employer. They must be Texas residents, but citizenship is not required for eligibility.

The WIC program serves pregnant women, breastfeeding women, postpartum women, infants, and children younger than 5 years of age. Services include nutritious food, nutrition education, health screening, and immunizations for children under age 5. WIC programs are under the authority of the Texas Department of health and operate in a variety of locations in different communities.


In 1999, the Texas Legislature set up the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to provide health insurance for children whose family's income and assets exceed the eligibility criteria for Medicaid but whose income is not above 200% of the federal poverty level. Since the family income criteria for Medicaid eligibility varies according to the age of a child, some families can enroll one (or some) of their children in Medicaid but not others. For example, if a family ha a child under age 6 and two school age children and the family income is 125% of the federal poverty level, their preschooler would be eligible for Medicaid, but the two older children would not. That family could enroll the older children in CHIP. Families that do not have any children eligible for Medicaid also can enroll them in CHIP if the family income does not exceed 200% of the federal poverty level.


Families with incomes below 150% of the federal poverty level meet the criteria for subsidized child care, if sufficient resources are available to the local Child Care Management System to pay for the services. Priority for subsidized child care is usually given to TANF recipients in employed services, welfare-to-work clients, and former TANF recipients in the transitional year after they leave TANF and become employed. In most areas, the wait list for families not in priority populations may be two years.

Families receiving subsidized child care pay on a sliding scale, depending on their income and family size. Parents can select a child care provider through the CCMS provider network or may choose another child care provider that meets certain CCMS requirements. Self-arranged child care also is an option if certain relatives of the child provide it. The local CCMS office has information about the availability of subsidized child care and rights of families receiving subsidized child care. The telephone number of the local CCMS office is available through the local TDHS office or the local Workforce Development Board and workforce centers.


The local Workforce Development Boards have the option to provide services that assist low-income families who are at risk of becoming unemployed and entering the welfare system because of personal or circumstantial barriers to employment. The Boards can pay for support services necessary to overcome barriers to holding and advancing in a job, if they adopt policies to do so. They also have the authority to use certain funds (such as the Workforce Investment Act funds) to assist employees who need additional or specialized training or advanced education to improve their employability and to advance in employment. They can provide assistance to individuals who want to start a small business (usually called microenterprise) in order to support themselves and their families. Information about policies, programs, or services for low-income families outside the welfare system must be obtained from the local Workforce Development Board.

In some locations, special contracts have been made with public community colleges or technical institutions that provide customized job training for new or existing jobs in local businesses. The Skills Development Fund, administered through the Texas Workforce Commission, pays for training for specific skills for workers who will be hired by businesses or labor unions participating in the agreement. For information about whether such a program is available in your community and, if so, how to get workers into the program, contact the Business Services Director, Texas Workforce Commission, 512/463-8844, and ask if a Skills Development Fund program is available in your area.



TANF Income Eligibility, Grant Amount
Family Size
1999 Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
Max Income 17% of FPL
TANF Cash Grant

Medicaid Income Eligibility in Texas
Family Size
1999 Federal Poverty Level(FPL)
Maximum Income Eligibility
Maximum Income Eligibility
Maximum Income Eligibility
Pregnant Woman,
Child < 1 year
185% FLP
Child 1-5 years
133% FLP
Child 6-18 years
100% FLP

Food Stamp Income Eligibility
Family Size
1999 Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
Maximum Income 150% FPL

Subsidized Child Care
Family Size
1999 Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
Maximum Income 130% FPL

Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Family Size
1999 Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
Maximum Income 200% FPL

* These are illustrations of how income eligibility is calculated for various programs. The income eligibility figures are close approximations but should not be relied upon as exact for the purposes of determining eligibility. Most of the programs also have assets limitations as eligibility criteria.



WHAT IS CHIP? The Children's Health Insurance Program is a health insurance program for children in families with income that is too high for Medicaid eligibility but too low to afford other private insurance. CHIP is funded with federal block grant dollars matched with state dollars.

WHO WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR CHIP? Uninsured children in families with incomes up to TWICE (200%) the federal poverty level qualify for CHIP. Legally present immigrant children are also included.

200% OF FPL(1999)
Family Size

HOW MUCH WILL PARENTS PAY FOR CHIP? The cost depends on family income. Families making up to 150% of the federal poverty level pay $15 per year (regardless of the number of children), plus low co-payments: $2 per office visit, $1-$2 per prescription. Families from 150% to 200% of the federal poverty level pay $15-$18 per month (regardless of number of children) plus co-payments of $4 per office visit and $5-$10 per prescription.

WHEN WILL CHIP BE AVAILABLE? CHIP should be available in late spring, 2000.

HOW WILL PARENTS APPLY FOR CHIP? The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is working on an application that can be mailed in. Parents also will be able to apply over the telephone and will be sent a form to sign after a phone conversation to verify the information given. Applications indicating that the child is Medicaid-eligible will be sent directly to TDHS. For families that earn too much to qualify for CHIP, their application will be referred to the Texas Healthy Kids Corp.

COULD CHIP BE AN ALTERNATIVE TO MEDICAID FOR SOME FAMILIES? NO. Federal law says that children who qualify for Medicaid based on their family's income cannot enroll in CHIP. CHIP applications that indicate that the family is Medicaid-eligible will be given automatically to TDHS so they can be enrolled in Medicaid. A TDHS worker will contact the parents and assist them in applying for Medicaid for their child or children.



The following family incomes meet income eligibility requirements for Food Stamps:

Family Size
Gross Monthly Income

Add $306 for each additional family member.

TDHS also must consider a family's resources to determine if the family is eligible for Food Stamps. Families are allowed to have:

  • Resources (such as money in the bank or in savings) up to $2,000. If the family includes someone who is age 60 or older or receives SSI or Social Security Disability, they are allowed to have resources up to $3,000.

  • A family's house and any surrounding property occupied by family members are not counted in determining Food Stamps eligibility.

  • Most cars worth less than $4,650 are excluded. If a family uses a car more than 50% of the time to earn income, transport a disabled household member, or carry the household's primary source of water or fuel, the car will not be counted in determining Food Stamp eligibility.

Families apply for the Food Stamp program at the local TDHS office. They can call the office for an application form and an appointment for determining if they are eligible.

Dr. Patricia Cole, as part of a grant with the Texas Department of Human Services, January 2000, wrote this article. It was originally distributed at the "Challenges and Opportunities for Domestic Violence Victims in Welfare and Related Programs - How Can Advocates Help? A Conference for Texas Advocates for Victims of Domestic Violence," January 24-25, 2000. It was sponsored by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, Austin, Texas, 512/407-9020 (voice and fax), http://www.ncdsv.org.

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