The Evaluation of the Tribal Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Initial Implementation Findings. Policy Context


Indian tribes and consortia of tribes have been explicitly included in federal welfare reform initiatives such as TANF, Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), WtW, and NEW. Both Congress and federal agencies administering these programs have supported Indian self-determination and tribal consultation in formulating the legislation and in developing policies and regulations. The legislation and regulations permit tribes to operate the programs and allow some flexibility for the special circumstances and interests of each tribe.

The WtW grants program is a $3 billion program established by Congress as part of the BBA. Its purpose is to provide additional resources to supplement the welfare reform funds included in the TANF block grant, which was authorized under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996. Congress intended that these additional funds would support programs, especially in high-poverty communities, that help the least employable, most disadvantaged welfare recipients make the transition from welfare to work and that help noncustodial parents increase their earnings and support their children.

The BBA permits Indian tribes and tribal consortia to participate in the WtW grants program.(4) One percent (more than $30 million) of the $3 billion was set aside for the tribal WtW program; $15 million was awarded to tribal grantees in fiscal year (FY) 1998 and a similar amount in FY 1999 (Table 1.1 presents the key components of the tribal WtW program). While the WtW grants represent a distinct funding stream, most tribal grantees use the funds, combined with funding from other programs (e.g., NEW, TANF, Job Training Partnership Act [JTPA], Workforce Development Act [WIA]), to enhance services provided by existing employment programs. As discussed in Chapter III, under the authorization of the Public Law (PL) 102-477 program, some tribes have reprogrammed WtW and other funds into a unified "477 Program" that addresses particular circumstances and goals set by the tribe.

PRWORA authorizes tribes or tribal consortia to operate a TANF program and allows them flexibility in the specification of the service area and population and operation of the program. In fall 2000, the Office of Child Support Enforcement in the Administration of Children and Families (ACF), DHHS, issued interim regulations (45CFR Part 302) that permit tribes to enter into cooperative agreements with state agencies to assist in administering the State Child Support Enforcement (CSE) plan.

Primary federal responsibility for tribal programs related to welfare reform is spread across units of two departments--Health and Human Services and Labor (DOL). Within DHHS, ACF administers tribal TANF and NEW programs (through the Office of Community Services/Division of Tribal Services), the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families administers tribal CCDF (through the Child Care Bureau), and the Office of Child Support Enforcement administers CSE. Tribal WtW programs are administered by the Division of Indian and Native American Programs (DINAP) in DOL. Both DHHS and DOL have consulted with tribes in developing and modifying regulations for tribes operating TANF, NEW, CSE, and WtW programs.

In Indian country, as in all communities throughout the United States, the overall goal of welfare reform is to help people dependent on welfare to become gainfully employed and financially independent. The TANF program, in conjunction with other federal and state programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), provides income support while helping participants secure unsubsidized employment. The WtW program was designed to help the most disadvantaged and least employable TANF recipients move from welfare to work. The NEW program, authorized by PRWORA, replaced the tribal Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Program (JOBS) and provides a variety of work-related activities (e.g., education and training, work readiness, employment activities, supportive and job retention services) to tribal members. NEW grantees may also provide labor/job market assessments, job creation, and economic development activities designed to lead to job creation. Only those tribes and Alaska Native villages that operated a tribal JOBS program in FY 1995 are eligible for NEW grants.


Table 1.1
Key Tribal WtW Provisions
Provision Original Program Amended Program
Authorization The Indian and Native American (INA) WtW Program is authorized by Title V, section 5001(c) of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (PL 105-33), which amended title IV-A of the Social Security Act by adding section 412(a)(3) [42 U.S.C. 612(a)(3)]. Title VII of HR 3424, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2000.


Effective Date 8/5/1997 11/29/1999
Grantee Eligibility Three categories of federally recognized Indian tribes, consortia of such tribes, or Alaska Native regional nonprofit corporations are eligible to receive INA WtW funds--those that (1) operate a tribal TANF program, (2) operate a NEW program, or (3) operate an employment program funded through other sources under which substantial services are provided to recipients of assistance under a program funded under Part A of title IV of the Social Security Act. No change
Funding Formula Two funding formulas used: (1) for TANF and NEW tribes, based on welfare caseload data (AFDC/TANF data); and (2) for the "substantial services" tribes, based on FY 1990 Census data. Each eligible tribe received a formula allocation that represents its share of the national total. No change
Eligibility for Hard-to-E mploy Long-Term Welfare Recipients (70% Category) No less than 70 percent of the WtW grant funds must be expended to serve clients who meet 2 conditions:
1.Received assistance for at least 30 months AND
2.Meets 2 of 3 characteristics:
  • Lacks HS diploma or GED AND has low math or reading skills
  • Has poor work history
  • Requires substance abuse treatment for employment
Received TANF assistance for at least 30 months, OR is within 12 months of becoming ineligible for TANF due to time limits
Eligibility for Recipients with Characteristics of Long-T erm Dependency (30% Category) Up to 30% of the WtW grant funds may be expended to serve clients, including noncustodial parents, who are school dropouts, experience teenage pregnancy, or have a poor work history. Up to 30% of the WtW grant funds may be expended to serve clients who fall in at least 1 of 3 categories:
  1. Youth who have "aged out" of foster care
  2. Custodial parents with incomes below the poverty level
  3. TANF recipients who face barriers to self-sufficiency under criteria established by the local workforce investment board
Eligibility for Noncustodial Parents Eligible under both the hardest to serve (70%) and long-term welfare dependency (30%) categories

Under hardest to serve category (70%), must meet 2 of 3 characteristics:

  1. Lacks HS diploma or GED AND has low math or reading skills
  2. Has poor work history
  3. Requires substance abuse treatment for employment
Noncustodial parents eligible only under the 70% category if they meet each of 3 conditions:
  1. Are unemployed, underemployed, or have difficulty in making child support payments AND
  2. Their minor children (1) are eligible for TANF or receive TANF benefits; ( 2) received TANF benefits in the preceding year; or (3) are eligible to receive benefits from Food Stamp, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, or Children's Health Insurance Programs; AND
  3. Enter into a personal responsibility contract under which they commit to establish paternity, pay child support, and participate in services to increase their employment and earnings, and to support their children.
Personal Responsibility Contracts for Noncustodial Parents Not required Required (see above)
Integration with Workforce Investment Act A state's WtW plan is a supplement to its TANF plan. Addition to the 30% eligibility category: TANF recipients who face barriers to self-sufficiency under criteria established by Workforce Investment Board (WIB)
Allowable Activities
  1. The conduct and administration of community service or work experience programs
  2. Job creation through public or private sector employment wage subsidies
  3. On-the-job training
  4. Contracts with public or private providers of readiness, placement, and postemployment services
  5. Job vouchers for placement, readiness, and postemployment services; and
  6. Job retention or support services if such services are not otherwise available

Stand-alone training is not an allowable activity.

Preemployment vocational education and job training for up to 6 months is added as allowable activity.
Other None Any participant enrolled in a tribal WtW program prior to the 1999 Amendments will remain eligible despite changes in eligibility.
Grantee Reporting Requirements Using forms developed by DOL, grantees are required to submit cumulative quarterly and annual reports covering program activity and financial expenditures. Minor change in reporting forms
Inclusion in PL 102-477 Program All grants awarded under the INA WtW program are formula-funded; any INA WtW grant funds awarded to a tribe can therefore be included in a consolidated plan authorized by PL 102-477. For those tribes already participating in the 477 demonstration, application for an INA WtW grant will take the form of a "477 plan" modification submitted to the lead agency responsible for the 477 program. No change