Developing a TANF Plan
Good estimates that help to ensure adequate funding, clear goals for tribal TANF, and planning that includes broad input from other tribal programs facilitate the production of a TANF plan that serves as a blueprint for smooth operations.
- Valid 1994 AFDC Counts (or Estimates). Because the 1994 AFDC counts determine the amount of the tribal TANF grant, planners should validate state counts or estimates of the number of tribal members participating in AFDC in 1994. The tribe or consortium may wish to develop independent estimates. Such estimates can be based on data from other programs with low-income eligibility requirements, such as Head Start, WIC, and BIA social services. In some circumstances, it may be useful to conduct a survey to identify tribal members who received AFDC in 1994. It may be valuable to try to determine or estimate the number of tribal members who were eligible but did not participate in AFDC as well as the number eligible for TANF but not participating because of access barriers, such as lack of reliable transportation. While the tribal TANF plan must be based on the number of members receiving AFDC in 1994, estimates of the number of persons eligible for and likely to apply for services provided by the tribal TANF program can be valuable for planning purposes.
- Developing a Strategy for Negotiations with the State. Goals of tribal grantees in negotiating with the state could be to ensure adequate funding in the TANF grant, ensure access to resources and information, and preserve and enhance tribal sovereignty. The negotiation strategy might include efforts to (1) determine the number of tribal members participating in AFDC in 1994, (2) obtain a portion of state MOE funds, (3) obtain access to and use the state TANF information system, (4) obtain excess state computers and other resources, (5) obtain training and technical assistance from the state TANF program, (6) maintain and enhance tribal sovereignty, and (7) minimize conflict and maximize mutual goals and objectives shared with the state. Tribal grantees in the study suggested that tribal negotiators should focus on TANF issues and avoid discussion of matters over which state staff have little influence, such as water rights, treaty rights, and taxation.
- Obtaining Input and Participation of Relevant Tribal Programs in the TANF Planning Process. Tribal programs that affect the TANF program or are affected by it include social services programs, workforce development, education, facilities and maintenance, strategic planning, and economic/ business development. As part of TANF planning, the responsibilities and relations between TANF and these programs should be articulated.
- Sharing or Renovating Existing Facilities for the TANF Program. Several of the grantees in the study renovated existing facilities to use as tribal TANF offices, or used space available in facilities housing related tribal programs. Compared to new facility construction, such approaches can reduce the costs of implementing the TANF program. In some circumstances, facility renovation can be used to promote business and economic development; tribally-owned or Indian-owned businesses can play a role in managing or performing renovations, and tribes can identify businesses that are likely to thrive when co-located in the same facility as or adjacent to the TANF program.
- Federal or State Funding for TANF Planning and Implementation. The Act does not provide funds for TANF planning, and implementation costs must be funded from administrative expenses. Tribes can apply for funding to support TANF planning and implementation from federal agencies such as ANA and DOL (WtW if available). Some states have either provided funding to tribes and tribal consortia for TANF planning, from existing appropriations (generally discretionary funds provided by the executive branch) or from new appropriations made by the legislature.
- Using Economic Development Provisions in 477 Programs. Tribes participating in the 477 program can use up to 25 percent of their total 477 plan resources, including TANF, for economic development. If successful, such development efforts could produce jobs needed by TANF participants to move from welfare to work.
Implementing and Operating the TANF Program
Tribes offered practical suggestions for easing the transition to tribal TANF. These lessons address challenges tribes face, including limitations in staff experience operating TANF, in their information systems infrastructure, and in economic development/job creation.
- Participant Recruitment Dilemmas. One of the advantages of operation of TANF by tribal grantees is that these grantees are able to remove barriers to participation in the program by tribal members through better advertisement of the availability of the program and more effective enrollment activities. However, successful removal of access barriers may result in the enrollment of more participants than planned. On the other hand, tribal grantees with a large service area and a heterogeneous service population may find enrollment to be slow and below planned levels.
- Training by State TANF Programs. Study grantees said that state TANF programs provided valuable training to tribal staff, usually at no charge. Tribal officials said that shadowing staff at state/county facilities helped tribal TANF staff learn approaches, techniques, and strategies the state uses. Even when the tribal program decided to do things differently, the experience of shadowing state staff helped to inform the approaches the tribal program adopted.
- Subcontracting Some TANF Operations to the State During a Transition Period. Taking over operation of all aspects of a TANF program on a specified date can be especially difficult for tribes or tribal consortia. It can be much easier for a tribal grantee to take over specific program operations gradually, while the state continues to provide the remaining operations and activities.
- Use of the State TANF Information System. If the state TANF information system is compatible with the needs of a tribal program, the tribal grantee can significantly reduce expenditures and efforts in developing a new information system. As an alternative, some tribal grantees have found systems developed by private-sector commercial firms to be useful.
- Creation of a Reserve Fund for Emergencies. Tribal grantees can maintain part of their TANF funds as a reserve to help contend with unexpected circumstances, such as natural disasters. The negative effects of disasters are worsened when a grantee lacks such a reserve fund.
- Coordination with Other Tribal Programs, State and Federal Programs, and Private-Sector Firms and Organizations. Tribal grantees in the study reported working with federal departments and agencies (and associated programs) that promote business and economic development in Indian country. TANF job development efforts can be enhanced through coordination with other tribal, state, or federal programs and agencies such as WtW, WIA (Department of Labor), NEW, SEDS (DHHS), Vocational Education and Vocational Rehabilitation (Education Department), the 477, Loan Guarantee and other BIA programs, the Small Business Administration, and rural development (Agriculture).(1)