Operating TANF: Opportunities and Challenges for Tribes and Tribal Consortia. State Policies and Procedures


States can help tribes successfully operate tribal TANF through training, provision of services for a transition period, sharing of state information systems and equipment, and ensuring of access to other state services.

  • Provision of Training and Technical Assistance to Tribal Staff. Almost every state in the study provided extensive training and technical assistance to tribes taking over the TANF program. This was critical to the success of the tribal programs, and new tribal TANF grantees will need similar help, as indicated above.
  • Providing All, or a Portion of, TANF Services and Activities During a Transition Period. Almost all the states in the study continued to provide all, or a portion of, TANF activities and services to the tribal service population during a transition period. Without this gradual transition, the burden on tribal grantees can be insurmountable.
  • Use of the State TANF Information System by Tribal Grantees. Some states have allowed tribal programs to use the state TANF information system in the same way counties do. While not every tribal grantee can use the state information system, many can do so and thus avoid the need to develop or procure another system and its associated costs.
  • Donation of Excess Computing and Telecommunications Equipment to Tribal TANF Programs. Some states, as they upgraded their systems, donated excess computing and telecommunications equipment to tribal TANF programs. Such donations can help tribes overcome the problem of having to improve the infrastructure needed to operate the TANF program.
  • Provision of State MOE Funds to Tribal TANF Grantees. The Act does not require states to transfer any of their MOE funds to tribal TANF programs; however, some states have transferred all or a portion of these funds to tribal TANF grantees. Without state MOE funds, participants in many tribal TANF programs will have only a part of the resources available to participants when the state operated the program.
  • Ensuring Access of Tribal Members to All State TANF Services. Some tribal members elect to use the state TANF program, and others may live outside the service area of a tribal program. While serving tribal members in remote locations with few employment opportunities represents a difficult challenge to state TANF programs, it is important that states apply comparable expectations and offer comparable services to them. American Indians and Alaska Natives (regardless of their tribal affiliation or the location of their residence in the state) are citizens of the state and are entitled to equal access to all state programs.


1.  As part of the evaluation of the WtW program in Indian country, a paper addressing tribal economic and business development activities in relation to welfare reform is being prepared and is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2003.

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