The functioning of the U.S. social safety net as a support for low-income families depends on various means-tested programs and a system of both public agencies and nonprofit organizations. Using in-depth interviews (n = 5) and a survey of nonprofit employees (n = 73), we seek to understand the role of nonprofits in promoting equitable access to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Our findings reveal that public assistance programs are a necessary support for families, but that access is not always easy or equitable, and nonprofits form a protective layer of support providing resources and guidance for those most in need. Implications for policy and partnerships between the various components of the social safety net are discussed.

Stephanie Holcomb, Jessica L. Roman, Sabrina Rodriguez, and Andrea Hetling

Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, published online September 2021