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Rhode Island Works TANF Team Provides Innovative Solutions and Services to Help Families During the Pandemic


Job Seeker Consultant Michelle Mooney (pictured above) delivers diapers to a local family.

By: Deborah Anthes, Project Director, Rhode Island Works TANF

COVID-19 posed unique circumstances for our Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) participants in Rhode Island. The core benefits and services of TANF include basic assistance, work-related activities, and childcare. These are vital services that support unemployed or underemployed parents with insufficient income, job skills, and other barriers to employment.

However, the employment and educational goals of our Rhode Island participants were put on hold with the closing of schools, daycares, and mandatory “stay-at-home” orders. There was a declared state of emergency, and families struggled with basic needs.

The flexibility of states’ TANF use makes it a possible source to address the unknown and evolving needs of families resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Rhode Island EWS team worked with our customer, Rhode Island Department of Human Services, to shift to a model that would support our TANF families during this time of crisis.

We implemented a remote assessment and shifted to a full family support model. Additional services we provided included food and diaper delivery, distribution of face coverings, online tutoring services to support educational needs for families participating in distance learning, mental health services referrals, and virtual check-ins. Technology and communication devices were also secured and implemented.

During July and August, we are offering families an opportunity to participate in a virtual camp that will provide intergenerational learning opportunities and support as Rhode Island begins a phased entry to reopening its economy.

The virtual camp consists of four two-week sessions:

  • Session 1: Community of Kindness, July 6-17
  • Session 2: All Creatures Great and Small, July 20-31
  • Session 3: Oh the Places We’ll Go!, August 3-14
  • Session 4: Career Exploration & Talent, August 17-28


Families can register for just one or all four sessions. At the beginning of each session, our team will deliver a camperific activity pack to your family’s home, filled with age-appropriate games, books, crafts, instructions, useful links, and family activities. Each activity kit was developed and structured around a specific age range.  Additionally, we will be holding interactive, online workshops via Zoom for all ages three times per week.

The work we’re doing has been well received. One participant said, “Thank you so much for all your help in this. I truly appreciate everything you’ve done for me, and I will honestly never forget you and what you’ve done to help me.”