Operating TANF: Opportunities and Challenges for Tribes and Tribal Consortia. Obtaining MOE Contributions and Other State Support


When federal TANF funds are transferred from a state to a tribal TANF program, the state's MOE requirement is reduced by a corresponding amount.(6) States may (but are not required to) transfer to a tribal program the MOE amounts that the state formerly expended in providing TANF services to participants the tribal program now serves.

All the tribes in the study sample asked the state for MOE funds, but responses from the states varied, probably because of variation across states in policy, priorities, and the availability of funds. California and Nebraska provide 100 percent of the MOE monies to tribes; Washington provides 84 percent (plus additional enhancement and incentive funds); Arizona and Utah provide 80 percent; and Alaska provides 50 percent, but only to four of the eligible tribes/consortia in the state.(7) Minnesota provides 40 percent, and New Mexico and Wisconsin give the tribes no MOE funds (Table III.2).

Table III.2
State Support of Tribal TANF
State Percentage of MOE Provided Medicaid/ Food Stamps Coordination Other TANF Support Tribes in Sample
Alaska 50 Yes   Tlingit and Haida
Arizona 80   $4 million development for all tribes in state Navajo Nation; Hopi; White Mountain Apache
California 100 Yes   Torres Martinez
Minnesota 40 Yes Tribe uses state TANF information system Mille Lacs
Nebraska 100 Yes   Winnebago
New Mexico 0 No Over $1million in support Navajo Nation
Utah 80 Yes   Navajo Nation
Washington 84 Yes Tribal TANF staff invited to all state trainings Port Gamble
Wisconsin 0 Yes State pays 40% of each participant's grant after the first $100 Red Cliff; Lac du Flambeau

Some tribal officials maintain that tribal members have "dual citizenship" because they are both residents of the state and members of a sovereign tribe. They maintain that being a member of an Indian tribe does not eliminate any of the rights available to state residents. The tribal officials conclude that a state that fails to transfer the full complement of MOE funds to a tribe or tribes is unfairly denying tribal TANF participants benefits provided to other state residents.

Tribes also have successfully negotiated for additional funding, technical assistance, and TANF-related services from the states. For example, Arizona and New Mexico appropriated $4 million and $1 million, respectively, to help tribes plan and implement TANF programs. Minnesota donated computer equipment to the participating tribe, Mille Lacs. All the states working with tribal grantees in this study helped them, to some degree, plan, implement, and operate the TANF program. At least 5 of the 10 tribes in this study relied on states to operate all or a part of their TANF program during a transition period. For example, both the Hopi tribe and the White Mountain Apache tribe contracted with Arizona to operate the TANF program using the tribe's plan. After a transitional period, the Navajo Nation contracted with Arizona and New Mexico to continue to provide TANF services for existing TANF participants while the tribe provided services to new tribal participants. Each of these contracts between tribal TANF grantees and a state or states was for a fixed period (for example, 1 year, 18 months), and all three contracts were extended by mutual agreement of the tribes and states. Some states permitted tribal TANF programs to use the state TANF informatioystems (Arizona, Minnesota, New Mexico, Wisconsin), issue TANF benefit checks for tribal programs (Arizona, Wisconsin), or coordinate the enrollment of tribal TANF recipients in the Medicaid or food stamp programs (Minnesota, Washington, Wisconsin). Most states provided valuable training and technical assistance to tribal grantees in the study.

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