By Lillian Sparks, Jeannie Chaffin and Earl Johnson
The Administration for Children and Families serves many special populations each with a distinct set of challenges and service needs. One of those groups includes American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. Many tribes receive funds directly from ACF to operate the Tribal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Head Start, Child Care Development Block grant, the Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program, and other means tested programs.
When extraordinary circumstances occur, ACF works with tribal communities to provide information and address any questions or concerns related to those circumstances. Recently ANA has been receiving questions from ACF-funded programs on the impact of the Cobell Settlement on eligibility for programs for low-income recipients of these payments. Working with our partners across the federal government and with national organizations such as the National Congress of American Indians, ACF is responding by providing information and resources so that vulnerable populations are not at risk of losing access to these important programs.
Background on Cobell Settlement:
The $3.4 billion Cobell Settlement addresses the federal government’s alleged mismanagement of trust accounts maintained by the United States on behalf of more than 300,000 individual Indians. The Settlement includes a fund of $1.5 billion to be distributed to class members to compensate them for their historical accounting and potential trust fund and asset mismanagement claims. Eligible individuals will receive their portion of the settlement in the form of a lump-sum payment.
The settlement also includes a $2 billion fund that the Department of Interior (DOI) will use to buy back fractionated Indian lands to ensure the problems raised by Cobell do not occur again. To provide an additional incentive for account holders to sell their interests in fractionated lands, DOI will direct up to 5 percent of the value of fractionated land into a college scholarship fund of up to $60 million for American Indian students.
The settlement was approved by Congress on November 30, 2010 through the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 (CRA). The CRA specifies in Title 1 Section 101 (f) how the amounts received from the settlement should be treated for purposes of financial eligibility for public assistance programs. Most of the checks were recently issued in mid-December of 2012, with the rest going out early this year.
Given the recent Cobell settlement payments, ACF is hosting a webinar for our Tribal grantees to learn about some of the various financial protection tools available for individuals, organizations, and Tribes. Representatives from the National Congress of American Indians, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Office of Family Assistance, Office of Community Services, and Administration for Native Americans will be on hand to answer questions, as well as provide guidance on how the settlement payments may impact ACF programs.
Various ACF programs will post guidance for their offices and members of the public.
New Question (Q9) posted on the OFA website under the Tribal TANF Q&As
Lillian Sparks is the Commissioner of the Administration for Native Americans. Jeannie Chaffin is the Director of the Office of Community Services. Earl Johnson is the Director of the Office of Family Assistance.