Operating TANF: Opportunities and Challenges for Tribes and Tribal Consortia. Legislative Authority and Status of Tribal TANF


Recognizing the unique circumstances of American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages, Congress designed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), Public Law 104-193, to give tribes and tribal consortia flexibility in designing and administering their own TANF programs.(3)  PRWORA amended title IV-A of the Social Security Act (Public Law 74-271) which has been further amended.(4)  The Social Security Act, as amended, (the "Act") is the legislative basis of tribal TANF programs. As of March 1, 2003, a total of 38 tribes and tribal consortia have submitted TANF plans to, and received approval from, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Of those, 34 had been approved in mid-2001, at the time of the data collection for this study. Because some plans were submitted by consortia of multiple tribes, those 34 tribal TANF programs serve more than 170 tribes. In addition, many other tribes are considering operating the TANF program.

Though Tribal TANF experience is still limited, it has already yielded useful lessons. When this report was prepared, most tribal grantees had not finished implementing TANF or had operated the program for less than two years. Nevertheless, the 10 grantees in this study had identified and overcome major challenges. Each grantee was implementing or operating the program enthusiastically, with high expectations.

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