Operating TANF: Opportunities and Challenges for Tribes and Tribal Consortia. Negotiating Terms with the State

08/01/2003

Negotiations between tribes and states over tribal TANF plans are important in their substance and symbolism. Developing the tribal plan requires negotiations with the state (or states, if the reservation crosses state borders) about issues affecting the amount of federal and state funding the tribe will receive, as well as the extent of state support for systems development and training. The approach to these negotiations is important. Tribes in this study noted that it was important to remind state officials about tribal sovereignty (for example, by insisting that negotiations sometimes be conducted on the reservation and by making it clear that tribal councils must approve negotiated agreements). Tribal officials said that symbolic expressions of sovereignty can be important. For example, when negotiations were conducted at the state capital, the Port Gamble tribe brought its own flag to be flown alongside the state flag in Olympia. Some tribal officials suggested that a nonconfrontational approach is best in negotiating with the state. By focusing discussions on the shared goal of moving tribal members/state citizens from welfare to work, negotiations can proceed non-confrontationally.

The most challenging issues in tribal-state negotiations relate to funding. Key issues involved determining the number of tribal members participating in AFDC in 1994 and agreeing on the level of state support provided to the tribal TANF program through maintenance of effort (MOE) funds and other state contributions.

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