The Evaluation of the Tribal Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Initial Implementation Findings. Program and Service Coordination

01/29/2005

Program coordination presents a special challenge to tribes. In addition to internal coordination with other tribal services, tribal WtW programs must coordinate their activities with state- and county-administered programs, especially TANF. In addition, many tribes face constraints not faced by states or counties that limit service coordination (e.g., lack of economy of scale associated with small population size, challenges of enforcing child support orders of noncustodial parents residing and/or working off the reservation, and distance from state and county offices). Some tribal grantees in the study have developed promising strategies to address these constraints. These include (1) developing strategies for improved coordination with state/county TANF agencies, (2) combining program goals and funding under the 477 program, (3) coordinating with state agencies for child support enforcement, and (4) forming tribal consortia to improve operating efficiency.

Service coordination and integration have been the motivation for one-stop centers that promote a single application or intake process for multiple programs.(5) The unified intake permits application and eligibility determination for a range of services and programs funded by different federal agencies and departments, including food stamps, WtW, TANF, child support, transportation, and housing services. However, a tribal one-stop center generally cannot integrate services or programs that the tribe does not manage. Consequently, except for tribes operating TANF, none of the tribal programs in the study operated true one-stop centers. For example, if the tribe does not operate a TANF program, it cannot manage enrollment of tribal members in TANF and cannot integrate tribal services with TANF. Often, state or county one-stop centers are located far from tribal programs, making it difficult for tribal members to get to the center and for tribal staff members to coordinate with it. Service coordination is further limited because tribal staff members are often prohibited from accessing critical state or federal data needed for eligibility determination.

Several states where tribal study sites are located have addressed this disconnect between state TANF and tribal programs through co-location or outstationing of state staff at tribal programs. Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, and North Dakota, or counties in these states, station TANF and other program staff on the reservation to serve tribal members. The state of Alaska took the innovative step of stationing state employees at the Tanana Chiefs Conference facility in Fairbanks to facilitate service coordination and provide convenient access to services. State staff at the Tanana Chiefs Conference facility also serve nontribal Alaska residents. The presence of state staff at the Tanana Chiefs Conference facility creates a one-stop center. The operation of one-stop centers serving all eligible citizens at a tribal facility improves the quality and efficiency of services provided to both tribal members and state residents. It is also a testament to cooperation and collaboration between the state and tribe.

Some state TANF programs may not provide the full complement of services to tribal members residing on reservations with high levels of unemployment. Some study informants said that state programs make little or no attempt to train and place TANF recipients who receive waivers from the 60-month lifetime limit as a result of residing on reservations where the not-working rate exceeds 50 percent. On such reservations, business and economic development are prerequisites for moving TANF recipients from welfare to work. Nevertheless, informants said that TANF, WtW, and other programs should provide skills enhancement, job training, work experience and other services to TANF recipients to help them to become ready and able to work when work becomes available.