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


Tribal WtW programs attempt to respond to large needs but are modest in scale. Given the high rates of unemployment, welfare dependency, and poverty on many Indian reservations across the country, substantial numbers of tribal members on the reservations visited as part of this study were in need of WtW services to help make the transition from long-term dependency on welfare to self-sufficiency. However, the WtW programs visited as part of this study were modest in size and typically served small numbers of tribal members living both on and off the reservations.

Relative to the total populations living on or near the reservation, the proposed and actual numbers of tribal members enrolled in WtW initiatives were small. As Table 3.2 shows, the size of the reservations varied substantially, both in total tribal population and in the tribal TANF populations from which to recruit WtW participants. One site, the Navajo Nation--the largest tribe in the United States--was an outlier, with a tribal population of 234,786 living on or near the reservation. Among the other nine sites, the numbers of tribal members living on or near the reservation ranged from 34,000 (California Indian Manpower Consortium) to less than 500 (Kickapoo Tribe).

Table 3.2
Participation in Tribal WTW (FY 1998)
  TCC Nez Perce Navajo Nation CIMC White Earth Kickapoo TAT Klamath Cherokee Red Lake

Estimated Population

Tribal Members (on or Near Reservation)

6,195 16,159 234,786 34,000 6,491 478 5,246 3,748 6,311 7,974

Estimated TANF Population

174 109 27,000 160 149 10 114 28 87 650


WtW Participant Goal

250 30 230 425 30 20 20 25 6 400

Goal as Percent of Members

5% 1% 1% 1% 1% 4% 1% 1% 1% 5%

WtW Participants Served

681 25 104 82 NA 32 NA 36 16 109

Served as Percent of Members

12% 1% 1% 1% NA 7% NA 1% 1% 1%

Served as Percent of Goal

272% 83% 45% 19% NA 160% NA 144% 267% 27%
Note: Percentages shown as 1% are between 0% and 1%.
NA = not available. WtW is incorporated in PL 102-477 program; data not broken out for WtW program.

The proposed number of TANF recipients to be served by the 10 WtW grantees included in the study sample ranged from 6 WtW-eligible individuals (Kickapoo Tribe) to 425 (California Indian Manpower Consortium). As a percentage of total tribal members, the participation goals ranged from less than one percent of tribal members living on or near the reservation (at five reservations) to five percent (at two reservations). While four sites planned to serve more than 200 participants, the other six sites planned to serve 30 or fewer individuals. These small programs all had FY 1999 WtW grants of less than $300,000.

Actual participation in WtW was also small. Participation figures for FY 1998 were available for 8 of the 10 study sites.(6) In those eight sites, the number of participants served range from 16 participants (Cherokee) to 681 participants (Tanana Chiefs Conference). Except for Tanana Chiefs Conference, the programs served fewer than 110 participants, with four of the eight sites serving fewer than 40 participants. The number of WtW participants served in six of the eight sites visited was one percent or less of the total tribal members living on or near the reservation. The numbers served as a percent of total tribal members were considerably higher at Tanana Chiefs Conference (12 percent of tribal members) and the Kickapoo Tribe (7 percent), although the total number of Kickapoo tribal members is very small. Low participation figures imply higher cost per participant than more urbanized programs, and probably reflect special circumstances such as low population density, severity of barriers to employment, and remote location.

At the time of our site visits, four of the eight sites (for which data are available on participation levels) had exceeded their participation goals. For example, Tanana Chiefs Conference and Cherokee had served more than twice the number of individuals they had originally set as their participation goals. Three sites had served less than half of their original participation goals. As discussed in the following chapter, most sites experienced at least some difficulty (and some sites experienced major difficulty) in identifying and recruiting individuals eligible for WtW (especially under the original 70 percent eligibility criteria), in certifying WtW eligibility, or in getting individuals to enroll and stay involved in program services.


1.  This section is adapted from Chapter I of the report also prepared as part of this evaluation: "Program Structure and Service Delivery in Eleven Welfare-to-Work Grant Programs" (Nightingale, January 2001).

2.  The distinction between the unemployment and "not working" rates is important. The unemployment rate is the quotient of the number of unemployed people able to work divided by the number of employed people. The "not working" rate is the quotient of the number of unemployed people able to work plus those unemployed but not looking for work divided by the number of employed people. Thus, the "not working" rate is always equal to or greater than the unemployment rate.

3.  Under WIA, tribes are authorized to participate in WIBs; however, at only one of the study sites, the Nez Perce Tribe, was the tribe actively involved with the local WIB.

4.  WIA authorizes tribes to consolidate WtW funds in accordance with PL 102-477.

5.  One-stops are authorized by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998.

6.  WtW participant data were not reported by two of the tribes participating in the PL 102-477 program (Three Affiliated Tribes and White Earth); some participant data were reported by the Nez Perce Tribe for one year (year 1) before the tribe began to participate in the "477" program. "477" tribes are not required to report WtW participation separately.