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Questions And Answers

Back to TopTANF Assistance

Q1: Why do the Tribal TANF regulations make a distinction between TANF "assistance" and other benefits or services that a TANF program may provide to needy families?

A1: The TANF statute itself distinguishes between "assistance" and other forms of TANF benefits that Tribes and States may provide to needy families. Work requirements, time limits, and data collection and reporting apply only to families receiving assistance. The legislative history of the TANF statute indicates that Congress meant for the term "assistance" to encompass more than cash payments, but does not provide much specific guidance.

Q2: How do the regulations define assistance?

A2: The regulations define "assistance" to include payments directed at ongoing, basic needs. Non-recurrent, short-term benefits designed to deal with an individual crisis situation rather than ongoing need are excluded. Such short-term benefits cannot be provided for needs that will extend beyond four months. The definition also excludes child care, transportation and support services provided to employed families, Individual Development Account (IDA) benefits, refundable earned income tax credits, work subsidies to employers, and services such as education and training, case management, job search, and counseling. (§ 286.10)

Q3: If a family receives Welfare-to-Work (WtW) cash assistance, does this count against the established time limit on Tribal TANF assistance?

A3: Yes. WtW cash assistance provided for basic needs is defined as "assistance" under the regulations and counts against the time limit on Tribal TANF assistance. (§ 286.130)

Q4: Does a child living with a legal guardian constitute an eligible family for the purpose of assistance?

A4: A child must be living with a parent or adult relative in order to receive "assistance." If Tribal law provides that legal guardians or other individuals stand in loco parentis, then a Tribe could provide that a child living with such a legal guardian or other individual would constitute an eligible family for the purpose of "assistance."

Q5: May a family receive Tribal TANF assistance indefinitely?

A5: While a Tribal Family Assistance Plan may provide specific exceptions due to hardship or domestic violence, definite time limits for receipt of TANF assistance must be established. (§ 286.115)

Q6: What factors may a Tribe consider when proposing time limits for the receipt of Tribal TANF assistance?

A6: As part of its Tribal Family Assistance Plan, a Tribe must propose a time limit for receipt of Tribal TANF assistance that will apply to its service population and provide a rationale for its proposal. The proposal should take into consideration those factors that may impact on the length of time that a TANF family might be expected to need in order to find employment and become self-sufficient. Examples of the information that we would expect to be included to support the Tribe's proposal include, but are not limited to: poverty, unemployment, jobless and job surplus rates; education levels of adults in the service area; availability of and/or accessibility to resources (educational facilities, transportation) to help families become employable and find employment; and employment opportunities on and near the service area.

Q7: Must the same time limit apply throughout a Tribe's TANF service area?

A7: No. To allow for maximum flexibility, we are not requiring that the same time limit apply throughout the Tribal TANF service area. A Tribe has the option to decide that, because economic conditions and the availability and accessibility of services vary, it is appropriate to establish different time limits by geographic area. For example, a Tribe could choose to establish a shorter time limit for a part of the service area that has many employment opportunities than for another part of the service area with high unemployment. (§ 286.115)

Back to TopEligibility to Operate a Tribal TANF Program

Q1: Are all Indian tribes eligible to operate a Tribal TANF program?

A1: No. Only Federally recognized Indian tribes are eligible to submit Tribal Family Assistance Plans and to operate Tribal TANF programs. With respect to the state of Alaska, only the 12 Alaska Native regional nonprofit corporations specified at section 419 of the Act, plus the Metlakatla Indian Community of the Annette Islands Reserve are eligible to operate Tribal TANF programs. In addition, eligible Indian tribes may form consortia to develop and submit a single Tribal Family Assistance Plan. (§ 286.15)

Back to TopTribal TANF Funding

Q1: When a Tribal Family Assistance Plan is approved, how much in Federal TANF funds are available to operate the program?

A1: The approved Tribal TANF program will receive Federal TANF grant funds equal to the Federal share of all expenditures (other than child care expenditures) by the State or States under the Title IV-A programs (AFDC and Emergency Assistance), and Title IV-F program (JOBS) program for fiscal year 1994 for Indian families residing in the service area(s) identified by the tribe in the Tribal Family Assistance Plan.

Q2: If the Tribal TANF program will only serve members of the Tribe, does the Tribal TANF grant amount only reflect Federal expenditures made on behalf of Tribal members rather than "all Indian families"?

A2: No. The statute expressly requires the Tribal TANF grant amount to reflect expenditures for all Indians families residing within the service area designated in the Tribal Family Assistance Plan. This is so even if the Tribe's service population only includes Tribal members. The statute leaves it up to Tribe to specify both the service area and the service population.

Q3: How are "Indian families" defined?

A3: A Tribe must indicate its definition of "Indian family" in its Tribal Family Assistance Plan. Each Tribe may define "Indian family" according to its own criteria. (§ 286.20 (a)(1))

Q4: Are administrative expenditures under the IV-A and IV-F programs reflected in the Tribal TANF grant formula?

A4: Yes. The Tribal TANF grant formula reflects all expenditures, including administrative expenditures. Such administrative expenditures include systems costs.

Q5: What role do States play in the determination of the Tribal Family Assistance Grant amount?

A5: Under the regulations, the Department will request that data be submitted by the affected State or States indicating the total Federal payments, including administrative costs (which includes systems costs) for fiscal year 1994 under the former Aid to Families With Dependent Children, Emergency Assistance and Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training programs, for all Indian families residing in the geographic service area or areas identified in a Tribe's letter of intent or Tribal Family Assistance Plan. (§ 286.20)

Q6: What if the Tribe disagrees with the data submitted by the State(s)?

A6: If a Tribe disagrees with the data submitted by a State, it must notify the Department of such disagreement and may submit additional relevant information. Relevant information may include, but is not limited to, Census Bureau data, data from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, data from other Federal programs, and Tribal records. (§§ 286.20 and 286.25)

Q7: How is the final determination of the Tribal Family Assistance Grant amount made if there is disagreement between the Tribe and the State(s) on the data to be used?

A7: The statute authorizes the Department to make the final determination as to the amount of a Tribal Family Assistance grant. Under the regulations, the Department will review all additional relevant data submitted by the Tribe, together with the State-submitted data, in order to make a determination as to the amount of the Tribal Family Assistance Grant. The final determination will be made at the earliest possible date after consideration of all relevant data. (§ 286.25)

Back to TopUses of the Tribal Family Assistance Grant

Q1: What limitations are there for the use of Tribal Family Assistance Grants?

A1: Tribes have broad flexibility in expending Federal TANF funds within statutory limitations. Tribes and States may use Tribal Family Assistance Grants for expenditures that are reasonably calculated to accomplish the purposes of TANF, including, but not limited to the provision to low income households of assistance in meeting home heating and cooling costs; assistance in economic development and job creation activities; the provision of supportive services to assist needy families to prepare for, obtain, and retain employment; the provision of supportive services to prevent of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and assistance in keeping families together. TANF funds may also be used in any manner that was an authorized use of funds under the State plans for Parts A or F of title IV of the Social Security Act, as such parts were in effect on September 30, 1995. (§286.35)

Q2: May Tribal Family Assistance Grants be used for economic development and job creation?

A2: Yes. Tribal Family Assistance Grant funds may be used for economic development and job creation provided that such expenditures are consistent with section 401 (a) of the Act. TANF grant funds may also be used for supportive services to assist needy families prepare for, obtain and retain employment.
(§ 286.35)

Q3: Are Tribes subject to a cap on administrative expenditures?

A3: Yes. Tribal TANF programs are subject to caps on the amount of Federal TANF funds that may be expended on administrative costs. These caps are negotiated between the Department and the Tribe and are subject to maximum percentages each fiscal year of TANF program operation. Expenditures by Tribal TANF program for information technology and computerization needed for tracking or monitoring the TANF caseload are excluded from the cap on administrative expenditures. (§ 286.50)

Q4: Since State TANF programs are subject to a fixed 15% cap on administrative expenditures, why may Tribal TANF programs negotiate higher caps?

A4: The 15% cap applicable to States is mandated by the statute and does not apply to Tribal TANF programs. The negotiated and graduated administrative cost cap applicable to Tribal programs recognizes that Indian tribes do not have the same resources available to States. Under the regulations, Tribal TANF programs are permitted to claim more administrative costs, especially in the initial operation and administration of a TANF program. (§ 286.50)

Q5: Are indirect costs negotiated with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, or any other Federal agency considered administrative costs?

A5: Yes. The regulations require such indirect costs to be considered administrative costs. (§286.55)

Q6: If a Tribe provides case management services to help potential TANF recipients apply for food stamps, would that activity be considered an administrative cost?

A6: Under the regulation case management, information and referral, and counseling activities constitute program expenditures, rather than administrative costs. (§ 286.5)

Q7: Can Tribal Family Assistance Grant funds be used to fund Individual Development Accounts (IDAs)?

A7: Yes. Provided a Tribe elects to operate an IDA program, it may use Federal TANF funds or Welfare-to-Work (WtW) funds to fund IDAs for individuals who are eligible for TANF assistance. (§ 286.40)

Q8: May Tribal Family Assistance Grant funds be used for the same purposes as Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds?

A8: Section 404(a) of the Act permits TANF grant funds to be used for the provision of low-income households with assistance in meeting home heating and cooling costs. The purposes of LIHEAP are consistent with such use of TANF grant funds. (§ 286.35)

Q9: May a Tribe use Federal TANF funds for adoption assistance?

A9: A Tribe could use Federal TANF funds to provide benefits and services to needy parents of an adopted child. Benefits provided in this circumstance would trigger applicable TANF rules if they meet the definition of "assistance," e.g., address basic needs, and are provided under the TANF program.

Q10: May Tribal Family Assistance Grant funds be used for the construction or purchase of real property?

A10: Federal Tribal Family Assistance Grant funds may not be used for the construction or purchase of real property. Separate Tribal or State funds may be used for such purposes. Federal funds may never be used for construction or the purchase of real property unless there is express statutory authorization. (§ 286.45)

Q11: May Tribal Family Assistance Grant funds be used to augment funding for other Federal grant programs?

A11: No. Federal grant regulations preclude using Federal TANF funds to augment or supplement other Federal grant programs. TANF funds may, however, be expended in any manner that is reasonably calculated to accomplish the purposes of the TANF program. Provided that expenditures of Federal TANF funds comply with the above restriction, such funds may be used for benefits and services that are also authorized under other Federal grant programs. (§ 286.45)

Q12: May Tribal TANF programs carry forward Tribal Family Assistance Grant funds from one fiscal year to another?

A12: Yes. A Tribe may reserve Tribal Family Assistance Grant funds without fiscal year limitation, to provide assistance under the Tribal TANF program. Unobligated balances of Federal TANF funds carried forward from previous fiscal years may only be expended on assistance and related administrative costs associated with providing such assistance. (§ 286.60)

Q13: Besides the statute and the regulations, what other limitations are there on the use of Tribal Family Assistance Grant funds?

A13: 45 CFR Part 92 and OMB Circulars A-87 and A-133 govern the use of TANF grant funds. (§ 286.45)

Back to TopWork Activities

Q1: May Tribal TANF programs just provide cash assistance to needy families?

A1: No. While Tribes and States have broad flexibility in designing appropriate TANF programs and services (including cash assistance), the statute requires that families move from welfare to self-sufficiency through work. Each Tribal TANF program must meet minimum work participation rates that reflect how well it succeeds in engaging adults in work activities. (§§ 286.80 - 286.105)

Q2: What "work activities" satisfy a Tribal TANF program's minimum work participation rate?

A2: Tribes may define for their own programs what activities count as "work activities" within broad limitations of the statute. (§ 286.100)

Back to TopRetrocession

Q1: § 296.30 of the regulations refers to retrocession. What is retrocession?

Q1: Retrocession refers to the voluntary termination of a TANF program prior to the end of the three-year Tribal TANF grant period. The regulations specify the procedures that must be followed.

Q2: Does the statute provide for retrocession?

A2: No. Section 412 of the Act does not expressly provide for retrocession. By affording Tribes the opportunity to withdraw their agreement to operate the TANF program if they must, the regulations recognize that Tribes voluntarily implement a TANF program for needy families. In providing for retrocession in the regulations, we developed a time frame which we believe ensure that: (1) there is minimal disruption of services to families in need of assistance; (2) a Tribe makes an informed decision in determining whether or not to cease operating the Tribal TANF program; and (3) affected States are provided adequate notice.

Q3: If a Tribal TANF program retrocedes, is it still responsible for any penalties imposed against the program for failing to comply with TANF program requirements?

A3 Yes. A Tribe which retrocedes a Tribal TANF program is responsible for all penalties imposed against the program for actions occurring prior to the effective date of retrocession, as well as with other Federal statutes and regulations applicable to the TANF program and any penalties resulting from audits covering the period before the effective date of retrocession. In addition to penalties, a Tribal TANF program is also responsible for complying with the data collection and reporting requirements and all other program requirements for the period before the retrocession is effective. (§ 286.30)

Back to TopPenalties Against Tribal TANF Grantees

Q1: What TANF penalties may be imposed on Tribal TANF grantees?

A1: Tribal TANF grantees are subject to four distinct penalties: (1) a penalty of the amount by which a Tribe's grant is used in violation of part IV-A of the Act, (2) a penalty of five percent of the TANF grant as a result of findings which show that the Tribe intended to violate a provision of the Act, (3) a penalty for failure to repay a Federal loan in the amount of the outstanding loan, plus the interest owed on the outstanding amount, and (4) a penalty for failure to satisfy the minimum work participation rates based on the severity of the failure. (§ 286.195)

Q2: Under what circumstances may penalties imposed on Tribal TANF grantees be excused or reduced?

A2: The statute provides that penalties against Tribal TANF grantees (except for failure to repay a Federal loan) may be excused or reduced if it is determined that the Tribe has reasonable cause for failing to comply with requirements that are subject to penalties. (§ 286.225)

Q3: Does the Tribal TANF grantee have an alternative to accepting a penalty and claiming reasonable cause for failure to comply with requirements?

A3: Yes. A Tribal TANF grantee may (1) submit a corrective compliance plan, and/or (2) file an appeal with the Departmental Appeals Board. (§§ 286.230 and 286.240)

Back to TopData Collection and Reporting

Q1: During the course of case review, if a Tribe finds a case that is obviously ineligible (e.g., no child or pregnancy) but received TANF assistance for the report month, should the Tribe complete the review or drop this case?

A1: The Tribe may not just drop the case. It must complete the data collection and reporting for all families that received assistance.