Q & A: Letter of Intent Process
Tribal TANF Program Policy Questions and Answers
Format of Letter
Q1 - Who should the LOI be addressed to?
A - The Letter of Intent (LOI) should be addressed to the Regional TANF Program Manager in the respective Region where the Tribe will administer the TANF program. (List of addresses attached.) ACF also recommends that the Tribe submit a copy of the LOI to the Division of Tribal TANF Management at: 370 L’Enfant Promenade Southwest Washington, DC 20447.
Q2 - What format and information must be included in the letter of intent?
A - The Letter of Intent (LOI) must include:
- A statement that the Tribe wishes to administer a Tribal TANF Program.
- The name of the contact person(s) for the proposed TANF Program.
A specific statement of the service area and population(s) the Tribe wishes to serve. This explanation must be specific enough to allow ACF to request caseload and expenditure data from the affected State(s) in order to establish the annual amount of the Tribal Family Assistance Grant (TFAG).
- The service area description must specifically identify any reservations, area, and /or counties the Tribe is proposing to include/exclude.
- The service population description must specifically identify whether the Tribe wishes to serve only its members, members of other federally recognized Tribes, and/or non-American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/ANs).
- If the Tribe wishes to serve non- AI/ANs and/or individuals residing outside of any Tribe’s BIA designated service area, the Tribe will need to request in the LOI that ACF request State concurrence (if applicable).
- If applicable, the Tribe must also provide documentation of concurrence from other Tribes that have jurisdiction in the proposed service area. A copy of these documents must be submitted to ACF prior to the plan being approved.
- The LOI should include a proposed date by which the Tribe would like to begin implementation.
- The LOI must be signed by the authorized Tribal leadership.
 “Jurisdiction” in this context means the Tribe has a reservation or a BIA designated service area in the proposed geographic area.
Q3 - Do all Tribes need to have a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) designated service area for social services and financial assistance in order to administer TTANF?
A - No. If a Tribe wishes to provide TANF services to AI/AN families only within the boundaries of its own reservation, neither concurrence from the State nor a BIA Designated Service Area is required.
Tribes can provide TTANF services beyond their reservation boundaries by either obtaining a BIA-Designation Service Area, or by obtaining the concurrence from the State.
Q4 - Is it ACF’s responsibility or the Tribe’s responsibility to obtain the Tribe’s BIA-designated service area?
A - It is the Tribe’s responsibility to request and follow up with BIA for a service area designation.
Q5 - Does having a reservation in part of a county mean that the entire county can be included in the service area if BIA designations have not been made?
A – If the Tribe does not have a BIA-designated service area for the entire county and no other Tribes have jurisdiction in the county, then the Tribe would need concurrence from the State before they could serve the entire county, as described above.
Q6 - How can a service area be clearly defined, especially near reservation areas?
A - If a Tribe only wishes to provide TANF services within the boundaries of their reservation, they can describe their reservation boundaries. If a Tribe wishes to provide services beyond their reservation boundaries, the Tribe can identify the area by the county name, zip code, and/or major geographic boundaries such as highway, bodies of water, etc. If ACF or the State need more information in order to determine the appropriate caseload and expenditure data, ACF will follow-up with the Tribe and a revised LOI may be needed.
Q7 - Can the service area be changed during the letter of intent process (immediate as well as long-term)?
A - Yes. The service area can be changed during the LOI process, but depending on the change, a revised LOI may be needed. However once the Tribe’s plan is approved by ACF the Tribe will need to submit a formal amendment to change its service area.
Q8 - How does ACF deal with multiple Tribes submitting LOI’s for same service area?
A – The answer to this question will depend upon whether the service area being requested has already been designated by the BIA as the service area for any particular Tribe or Tribes. For the purposes of this answer, we assume that the service area requested is not a BIA-designated service area for any particular Tribe or Tribes (and of course, that it is not located on any reservation).
In this case, according to ACF-PI-2005-03, if more than one Tribe proposes to administer a Tribal TANF program in the same extended service area (which may occur at the same time or after data negotiations have commenced with another Tribe but have not been completed), the State will determine how and whether negotiations for the service area will proceed (e.g., to include a new applicant after negotiations have commenced with another applicant). If negotiations proceed, the State will decide which Tribe(s) will serve the area and, if necessary, how the population will be allocated. The State's determination of who should serve the area will be used by ACF when evaluating the applicable TANF plan.
Q9 - If Tribe A requests to serve members of Tribe B outside of Tribe B’s reservation and BIA-designated service area, does Tribe A need to seek concurrence from Tribe B because it will be serving its members?
A – No. For the purposes of TANF, concurrence from another Tribe is only needed in that Tribe’s BIA-designated service area or on its reservation. Members of a Tribe that reside outside of their own Tribe’s reservation and BIA designated services area are considered “unaffiliated AI/AN” families.
Q10 – What is ACF’s role in the event that impacted Tribes do not respond to requests for concurrence to include their members in another Tribe’s proposed service area/population?
A – An impacted Tribe is a Tribe that has some level of jurisdiction (i.e., reservation land or a BIA-designated service area) in the proposed area. According to TANF-ACF-PI-2005-03 - If the impacted Tribe(s) do not respond to the written notification within 90 days of the date of the notice, ACF will first determine if the notification was adequate (i.e., the notices explicitly explain the proposed service area and population to be covered), and then proceed to contact the impacted Tribe(s) to determine their position with respect to the proposing Tribe’s application to administer a TANF program. If the impacted Tribe(s) are unresponsive to the ACF inquiries, their respective Tribal family members will be excluded from the proposed service population.
Q11 – What is ACF’s role in the assignment /division of unaffiliated population when Tribes with a shared BIA-designated service area do not agree?
A – According to ACF-PI-2005-03, if a Tribe that is currently receiving TANF services from another Tribe, decides to administer its own Tribal TANF Program, it may only withdraw its own members (i.e. once unaffiliated Al/AN families are included in a Tribe’s service population, they will remain in that service population until that Tribe either ceases to administer its TANF program or agrees to voluntarily relinquish these families to another program).
If no Tribe is currently serving the unaffiliated AI/AN families and two Tribes propose to serve the unaffiliated AI/AN families in the shared BIA-designated service area, these Tribes must negotiate and come to a mutual agreement on the distribution of the unaffiliated AI/AN families. If the Tribes cannot agree among themselves as to the distribution of the unaffiliated AI/AN families then ACF will make the decision.
Process/What to Expect
Q12 - What is the process that takes place once the Letter of Intent (LOI) is submitted to ACF, and what next steps should the Tribe prepare for?
A - The Office of Family Assistance (OFA) will request the caseload and expenditure data from the State within 10 days of receipt of an acceptable LOI that clearly identifies a proposed service area from a Tribe or Tribal organization. The State will be asked to submit the data directly to the Tribe and OFA (i.e. Division of Tribal TANF Management, and the appropriate OFA Regional Office). As stated in the regulations at 45 CFR 286.20(a)(2)(i) and (ii), the State has 30 days from the date of the request (from OFA) to submit the necessary data. OFA encourages States to also include information explaining how the data was developed. Upon receipt of the State provided caseload and expenditure data, OFA will verify that the data has been provided to the Tribe(s).
Q13 - What is the timeline for submission and review of the Letter of Intent (LOI) and the Tribal Financial Assistance Plan?
A - Please refer to the timeline in the Tribal TANF regulations at 45 CFR 286.160.
Q14 - Can the Tribe submit a draft Tribal TANF Plan?
A - Yes, the Tribe can prepare and submit a draft Tribal TANF Plan to the Regional Office.
Q15 - Why does the process of applying to implement a Tribal TANF program take so long?
A - The process involves many stakeholders each with their own sub-processes. ACF does not have control over many aspects of the process. The more complicated the service area and service population request, the greater the chance of encountering issues that must be resolved prior to LOI approval and Plan submission. If the Tribe is going to request a Service Area Designation from BIA, doing so prior to submitting the LOI can greatly simplify and shorten ACF review.
45 CFR 286.20 and ACF-PI 2008-03 provide the process and general timeframes for establishing the caseload and expenditure data in order to determine the amount of a Tribal Family Assistance Grant (TFAG), the annual amount of Federal TANF funding to which a Tribe is entitled in order to administer a Tribal TANF program.
Q16 - How does a Tribe obtain State “concurrence” for a proposed service area or population?
A – As stated in question 1 above, the Tribe will need to request in the LOI that ACF request State concurrence. ACF will then include the request for State concurrence in the data request letter to the State.
Q17 - What resources are available to a Tribe for use with setting up its program?
A - Tribal TANF provides no pre-award/start up funding for the Tribe. It is an improper use of TANF funds for reimbursement of start up costs. ACF Regional Offices are available to provide technical assistance and guidance to Tribes interested in starting a Tribal TANF program.
Submission of a Letter of Intent
Q18 - When is state concurrence supposed to happen?
A – As stated in question 2 and 16 above, the Tribe will need to request in the LOI that ACF request State concurrence. ACF will then include the request for State concurrence in the data request letter to the State. The State may include its concurrence with the data response or send a separate letter indicating its concurrence or non-concurrence.
Q19 - How is acceptance of the LOI communicated to the Tribe?
A- ACF will notify the Tribe that the LOI is acceptable and also provide the Tribe with a copy of the data request letter from ACF to the State. Generally the Tribe is also in frequent communication with the Regional Office during the process.
Q20 - Does a Tribe need State permission to submit an LOI to administer a Tribal TANF Program?
A - No, the Tribe does not need the State’s permission to submit an LOI, but please see above answer about obtaining State concurrence in order to serve an “extended service area” or non-BIA designated area.
Q21 - What should Tribes consider before submitting a LOI?
A - Tribes should consider where and to whom they would like to provide services. Does the Tribe only want to provide services on their reservation, and if so, do they want to serve only Tribal members or all AI/AN families living on the reservation? Does the Tribe want to provide services beyond their reservation and to only Tribal members or to other AI/AN families as well? The Tribe should also take into consideration what concurrences if any, they will need and of course whether any other Tribe is already serving the area as part of a Tribal TANF program. Finally the Tribe should consider the fact that TANF provides no pre-award funding for start-up costs and the infrastructure and administrative functions that will be necessary to operate a TANF program.
Expectations once Letter of Intent (LOI) is accepted by ACF
Q22 - What level of operation is expected by the proposed implementation date?
A – By the time the Tribal TANF Plan reaches the approval stage, the Tribe should have developed a working relationship with the State. The expectation is that by the stated implementation date, the Tribe should be prepared to begin accepting new clients, and the Tribe and the State should have arrived at a decision and process for client notification, as well as an agreement on a reasonable time line for the transfer of existing case load to the new Tribal TANF Program. If the Tribe is not prepared to begin accepting clients by the implementation date, this transition should be negotiated between the State and the Tribe.
Tribal TANF Plan Content
Q23 - What is the relationship between Indirect Costs (ICR) negotiated by BIA and TANF Administrative Costs?
Indirect Costs negotiated by BIA, the Department’s Division of Cost Allocation, or another federal agency are considered to be part of the total administrative costs. This is because such indirect costs are generally administrative, reflecting the proration of common administrative costs and overhead charges which are not readily identifiable as program costs. They must therefore be calculated as part of the administrative cost cap.
Although most indirect costs are administrative in nature, Tribes should not confuse the administrative costs (and the administrative cost cap) used in TANF and the indirect cost rate negotiated by BIA. There is no immediate relationship between these two concepts. Administrative costs might be classified as either direct or indirect costs, depending on how they are identified in the program. Indirect costs are costs (both administrative and programmatic) incurred for common or joint objectives across all programs, which cannot be identified readily or specifically but which are nevertheless necessary to the operations of the organization. A negotiated indirect cost rate is based on a specific direct cost base which is much smaller than the entire TFAG base.
Q24 - Should Tribes discuss indirect costs internally prior to implementing a TANF program?
A - Yes, the Tribe should clearly understand how costs should be allocated prior to receiving their grant, to assure proper accounting and quarterly reporting.
Q25 - What does a program plan look like?
A - Please refer to the Tribal TANF document: Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program found at the following web link: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ofa/tribal_tanf_guide2013...
The Regional Offices can also provide additional guidance and suggestions on Tribal TANF plan format and content.
Q26 - How can the Tribe assure that there are no delays in service when clients are transferred from the State to the Tribal TANF program?
A – Please see question 22 above. Before the TTANF Plan is approved, the Tribe should establish a working relationship with the State, and both parties should have agreed on a process for the timely transfer of clients.
Q27 - If a Tribe wants to serve another Tribe, what information/assurances need to be put in the Tribal resolution?
A – The Tribes should come to an agreement as to how they want the administration of the TANF program structured. For example, more than one Tribe can apply for TANF as a consortium or one Tribe could allow another Tribe to provide TANF services on its behalf. Proper documentation of agreement, including a clear and consistent understanding of the administrative structure by the Tribal leadership of all Tribes involved will be required. The ACF Regional Offices can work with the Tribe(s) on specific language as needed.
Q28 - What are potential data sources that the Tribe can use if it disputes the data the State presents?
A - As stated in 45 CFR § 286.25 and ACF-PI-2008-03, additional data sources may include, but is not limited to, Census Bureau data, Bureau of Indian Affairs data, and data from other Federal programs and Tribal records.
As provided at 45 CFR 286.20(b), ACF’s objective is to evaluate all relevant data and determine the amount of the TFAG at the earliest possible date. Please note that the data used to determine the amount of the TFAG is based on federal expenditures for fiscal year 1994 under the former Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Emergency Assistance and Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training programs.
Q29 - How many minimum cases are necessary for a Tribe to have a viable program? The amount of the grant and whether or not the Tribe has other Tribal funds to start and sustain a program is really the question.
A – ACF has not established a minimum number of cases for a viable program. The number of cases can vary greatly depending on the size and accessibility of the service area. If a Tribe proposes to provide TANF services outside of its BIA-designated service area, it must demonstrate its administrative capacity to do so. Otherwise, when a Tribe accepts the caseload and expenditure data, it is expected to provide TANF services consistent with its approved TANF plan with that funding amount. If a Tribe later decides that it is unable to operate a TANF program with the TFAG amount provided, it may make changes to its service area/population, attempt to negotiate increased maintenance of effort (MOE) funding with the State, and/or retrocede the program back to the State. It should be noted that some Tribes decide not to start a TANF program after reviewing the initial data response from the State.
Q30 - What documentation is needed for a Tribal Consortium to operate TANF, and when is it required to be submitted to ACF?
A - § 286.70 (b) A TFAP from a consortium must be forwarded under the signature of the chief executive officer of the consortium and be accompanied by Tribal resolutions from all participating Tribes that demonstrate each individual Tribe's support of the consortium, the delegation of decision-making authority to the consortium's governing board, and the Tribe's recognition that matters involving operation of the Tribal TANF consortium are the express responsibility of the consortium's governing board.