The Evaluation of the Tribal Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Initial Implementation Findings. Special Tribal Provisions and Exceptions


Special provisions of the tribal TANF, WtW, and other employment and training programs affect the implementation of tribal WtW programs. These provisions relate to the allocation and use of funds, time limits, and work activities. In amending the Social Security Act (42UCS608), Congress, recognizing the difficulty many tribes face, required both state and tribal TANF programs to disregard from the 60-month limit on TANF benefits any month during which an adult lives in Indian country where at least 50 percent of the adults are not employed.(2) In general, DHHS regulations governing tribal WtW and TANF programs are flexible, with the aim of enabling tribes to tailor their programs to meet the needs of their service populations. For example, tribal WtW grantees are allowed to spend up to 20 percent of their grant funds on administrative costs (instead of being held to the 15 percent limit that applies to nontribal WtW grantees). Tribal WtW, TANF, and/or NEW programs also have flexibility in defining the program service area, service population, and work activities, and in selecting the supportive services to be provided, such as child care and transportation assistance.Tribes can choose to provide TANF services themselves, or to obtain these services from the state(s) or from another tribe.

With the creation of the TANF block grant program, the existing JOBS programs were terminated, except for those serving the tribes. The NEW program replaced the tribal JOBS program. The NEW program provides funding for tribes and intertribal consortia to administer tribal work activities programs in fiscal years 1997 through 2002.

Tribes can have additional flexibility in their use of employment and training funds. The Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-477) allows tribes, at their option, to combine the formula funds they receive for a variety of employment, training, education, and related services from federal agencies, including DOL, DHHS, Education, and BIA. Under "477," tribes develop a plan, written to meet tribally defined goals. Tribes decide which programs they will include in their 477 plans. Funding under each of the federal programs involved (e.g., JTPA, a number of BIA employment and education programs, JOBS/NEW, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant)--can go into a single budget. There is a single plan, a single annual report, and a relationship with a single federal agency, BIA. However, there are limits on the flexibility accorded to 477 programs. For some programs, such as TANF, reports are required by statute. In addition, 477 program funds must be administered in such a manner as to allow determination that funds from different federal sources are spent on activities allowable under the funding source or program. The Secretary of the affected federal agency may (or may not) waive for a 477 program any requirement, regulation, policy, or procedure mandated by the agency. Furthermore, the Secretary (of a federal department) may deny a waiver of departmental regulations and requirements for 477 programs if the Secretary determines such a waiver would be inconsistent with the purposes of PL 102-477, or inconsistent with provisions of the statute, specifically applicable to Indian programs, that authorizes the program in question.

There has been some disagreement between tribes and some federal agencies with respect to reporting and other requirements of tribal 477 programs. Federal program staff tends to favor the provision of timely and responsible accounting and reporting of activities and services provided with federal funds. Tribal 477 grantees tend to favor treating 477 funding streams like a block grant, with minimal accounting and reporting to the particular funding agencies.