Operating TANF: Opportunities and Challenges for Tribes and Tribal Consortia. Reporting Program Performance


Many tribal TANF grantees have found it difficult to submit complete quarterly reports to DHHS as required by Sections 411 and 412 of Title IV-A of the Social Security Act as amended. At the time the study data were collected, tribal TANF grantees submitted their quarterly reports to DHHS for review and approval (see Appendix 2). Grantees used an information system provided by DHHS, state TANF reporting systems, systems they developed independently, or commercially available systems. Most grantees noted difficulties in preparing the mandated reports, whichever system they used.

DHHS provided free computer software (Families in Tribal TANF Programs, or FTANF) designed to make the TANF reporting process easier. However, most grantees found the software cumbersome to use and of little help. Some of the tribal TANF programs have agreed to be included in state TANF information systems instead. As reported earlier in this chapter, 5 of the 10 grantees in this study, including the 2 that contract operations to the state, use the state data systems. However, DHHS found the reports generated by the state systems to be incomplete for the tribal grantees. Other grantees developed their own information systems (Navajo, Torres Martinez) or purchased a tribal TANF information system developed by a private-sector vendor (Port Gamble). These grantees, too, had problems in preparing quarterly TANF reports acceptable to DHHS. The grantees indicated that they needed to maintain two databases (one for benefit issuance and one for FTANF reporting) or had to hand-key information into the FTANF system.

Reporting difficulties and information system incompatibilities are not unique to tribes, but the burden is greater for tribes, for several reasons. First, unlike the FTANF system, states are not limited to one software system or reporting format when providing their data to DHHS. Second, because tribal governments are small relative to states, many tribes do not have separate administrative/programming staffs or information system structure to redesign reporting systems. Finally, a tribe that wishes to provide medical and food support, as well as TANF, must use both the state system and FTANF.


1.  Under the Act, funding of both state and tribal TANF grants is based on 1994 AFDC counts rather than the numbers of eligible persons requesting TANF services. The increase in funding of the tribe's TANF grant, in effect, represented a transfer of federal TANF funds from the state to the tribe.

2.  When the study data were being collected, Torres Martinez was negotiating with Orange and San Bernadino counties to expand its service area to those counties. Because counties in the state of California administer the TANF program, Torres Martinez was negotiating agreements with these counties before submitting a modification of its TANF plan to DHHS.

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