OCS Q & As: Tribal Services

Publication Date: June 25, 2015



Community Economic Development and Rural Community Development Programs

Photo of a tribal totem pole with faces

Q: What are CED and RCD programs about?

The purpose of the Community Economic Development (CED) discretionary grant program is to promote and support projects that address economic self-sufficiency for persons with low-income and distressed communities by awarding funds to community development corporations (CDCs) to create employment and business development opportunities. There is currently a standing Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for CED, which has a healthy food component called the Health Food Financing Initiative (CED-HFFI).  A CED and CED-HFFI FOA has been issued each of the past two years and the next FOA will solicit application for CED and CED-HFFI grants in the spring of 2016.  The grant program provides support to Community Development Corporations that focus on creating employment and business development opportunities (including healthy food-specific businesses) for individuals with low-income, families, and communities and grantees collaborate on community efforts to sustain local workforce and economic growth.

Each year approximately 40-45 CED grants are awarded with a maximum grant award level of $800,000. Grants are awarded to cover project costs for business start-up or business expansion and the development of new products and services. The grants serve as catalysts for attracting additional private and public dollars; for every CED dollar awarded, $3-5 is leveraged. Types of projects funded include business incubators, shopping centers, manufacturing businesses and agriculture initiatives. Funded projects create new employment or business, opportunities for individual with low-income individuals.

Another Discretionary grant offered by the Office of Community Services is the Rural Community Development (RCD) grant.  RCD grants are awarded to organizations that work to provide training and technical assistance to rural communities across the country to help develop, preserve, improve, expand, or operate water supply and waste water management systems. RCD grant awards are five-year grants with annual budget periods that can provide services to Tribal communities.

Q: What does the Discretionary Grant Program do for Tribes?

For a tribe to be eligible to participate in the CED discretionary grant program they have to become a Private, non-profit CDC, experienced in developing and managing economic development projects. The CDC must be governed by a board consisting of community residents and business and civic leaders and have as a principle purpose planning, developing, or managing low-income housing or community development projects. Faith-based and community organizations that meet the statutory eligibility requirements are eligible to apply.
The RCD program can assist Tribal communities to develop, preserve, improve, expand, or operate affordable, safe water and wastewater treatment facilities through training and technical assistance grants.

For further information please visit Community Economic Development and Rural Community Development page,
or Contact: Gerald Shanklin, Program Specialist for CED, at (202) 401-5559 or gerald.shanklin@acf.hhs.gov

Go Back to Top

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)Photo of sunset with a silhouette of a tribesman riding a horse

Q: How does the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program benefit Tribes?

There are three main ways:

  • Tribal households may apply at local Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) offices to receive LIHEAP benefits from the State (if the tribe does not receive a direct grant from the Federal government);
  • Tribes may wish to be a contractor of the State LIHEAP Program and run the State program on their reservations (the tribe will need to negotiate this arrangement with the State);
  • Tribes that are federally or State recognized may apply directly to the Federal government to administer a tribal LIHEAP program and deliver LIHEAP benefits directly to their tribal households.

Q: How does a Tribe receive a direct LIHEAP grant from the Federal government?

First, the Tribe should be a federally or State recognized tribe.  If the Tribe is not certain, it may need to contact the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the State to make this determination.

If it is confirmed that the Tribe is either federally or State recognized, the Tribe should contact the LIHEAP main number (202) 401-9351 and leave a message that it wants to become a direct grantee for the LIHEAP program.  The Tribe may also contact the LIHEAP liaison directly for its State and request to be provided with a direct grant.

The Tribe’s first question to the Federal office should be: How much money can be allotted to administer a Tribal LIHEAP program?  This is an important question because the amount may not be enough to support a LIHEAP program and provide adequate funds for reasonable benefit amounts.  If these two criteria (Federally/State recognized tribe and adequate funding) are not met, the tribe may wish to consider other ways to serve its low-income members as discussed above under question #1.

Once it has been determined that the Tribe has an adequate LIHEAP allotment, the Tribe must apply directly to the Federal government for a LIHEAP grant.  The Tribe should visit the LIHEAP website and review guidance on how to apply for funds in Information Memorandums and Action Transmittals.  The Tribe should also go to the LIHEAP Tribal Information Manual to review information on designing and implementing tribal LIHEAP programs.  The manual outlines and explains the flexibility and responsibility provided under a LIHEAP block grant.

Q: Who is eligible to receive benefits under a direct-grant Tribal LIHEAP program?

The LIHEAP statute states that low-income households at or below 150% poverty or 60% state median income may be eligible for LIHEAP.  Also, households that receive TANF, food stamps, Social Security benefits, or some veterans’ benefits may also be automatically eligible.

The tribe sets eligibility within these guidelines.  The Tribe may not set its eligibility below 110 percent of poverty.  Usually tribes serve those Tribal households on its reservation or adjacent trust lands.  Serving other Tribal households near the reservation may be negotiated with the State.

Q: Are there different requirements for Tribes than for States in administering the Tribal LIHEAP program?

When the LIHEAP statute uses the term “State,” it refers to Tribes, Tribal organizations, and territories as well.  The majority of the requirements in the LIHEAP statute and regulations apply to States, Tribes, Tribal organizations, and territories, with a few exceptions:

  • The LIHEAP statute requires grantees to limit the amount spent on administrative costs to 10 percent of funds payable to the grantee; however, tribes may use up to 20 percent of the first $20,000 of its funds payable and 10 percent of the remaining funds payable for administrative costs;
  • Tribes are exempt from the requirements in Assurance 15, Section 2605(b)(15) of the LIHEAP statute; and
  • Tribes are only required to use the short form when filing their households served report.

Q: Where do Tribes get information on LIHEAP?  How do tribes apply for and implement the program?

For more information, visit the LIHEAP website. Current news is listed in the center page. The left column provides the latest Information Memorandums (IMs) and Action Transmittals (ATs) that gives guidance and alerts to deadlines.  The Statute and Regulations are also listed there as well.

Another great source on the home webpage is the LIHEAP Tribal Information Manual Visit disclaimer page . This manual was prepared by Federal, Regional, and Tribal coordinators.  It includes information explaining the LIHEAP program and how to operate a LIHEAP program.  Many questions can be answered in the manual.

A group of Federal staff can answer many questions.  Visit the contact list on the OCS Tribal website to find the LIHEAP liaison.

For further information please visit Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program website,
or Contact:
Vikki Pretlow, Program Analyst of LIHEAP, at (202) 205-9901 or vikki.pretlow@acf.hhs.gov
Katina Lawson, Program Analyst of LIHEAP, at (202) 401-6527 or katina.lawson@acf.hhs.gov

Go Back to Top

Community Services Block Grant (CSBG)Photo of tribal pow wow participant with tribal clothing

Q: What is the Community Services Block Grant?

The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) is a grant that provides States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Territories, and Federal and State-recognized Indian Tribes and tribal organizations, Community Action Agencies, migrant and seasonal farmworkers or other organizations designated by the States, funds for the reduction of poverty, revitalization of low-income communities and the empowerment of low-income families and individuals in rural and urban areas to become self-sufficient.

Q: How does the Community Services Block Grant benefit tribes?

The CSBG provides Indian Tribes and tribal organizations with funds to reduce poverty and promote self-sufficiency. The funds provide a range of services and activities to assist the needs of low-income individuals including the homeless and the elderly. Grant amounts are determined by a formula based on each tribe’s poverty population. Services and activities that can be funded through the CSBG include employment and training, education, financial literacy and capacity building, housing, nutrition, emergency services, and/or health.

Q: How does a tribe receive a direct Community Services Block Grant from the Federal government?

The governing body of a Federally- or State-recognized Indian Tribe or Tribal organization must submit an application 30 days prior to the start of the fiscal year (September 1st of each year). The application must meet the requirements of Sections 676 and 677 of the Community Services Block Grant Act and Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 45, Part 96, Subpart D — Direct Funding of Indian Tribes and Tribal Organizations.

For further information on the requirements for submitting an application please review the Information Memorandum 136, “Application for Fiscal Year 2016 Community Services Block Grant Program (CSBG) Funds Based on the Availability of Funds.”  This information memorandum can be found at: /programs/ocs/resource/csbg-information-memora....

Q: Who is eligible to receive benefits under a direct Tribal Community Services Block Grant?

All grant recipients for both tribes and states must meet the 100 percent poverty level established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The tribes set eligibility within these guidelines.

Q: Are there different requirements for tribes than for states in administering the Tribal Community Services Block Grant?

Recognition — All Tribes and Tribal Organizations must be recognized as a State or Federally-recognized tribe in order to receive CSBG funding.  Federally-recognized tribes are those Indian tribes recognized by the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs.  State-recognized tribes are Native American Indian Tribes that are recognized by individual States for their various internal governmental purposes.  These tribes are able to receive direct funding from the Federal government and can therefore directly apply for the Community Services Block Grant.

Tribal Resolutions - A Tribal organization representing more than one Indian Tribe is eligible to receive block grant funds on behalf of a particular Tribe only if the Tribe has, by resolution, authorized the organization’s action.  The CSBG application must include copies of signed resolutions giving a Tribal organization authority to seek funding for specific Tribal organizations.

Programmatic Assurances — CSBG statute requires states to implement all the programmatic assurances.  Tribes are required to implement at least one of the programmatic assurances contained in Subsections 676(b) (1) (A) through (C) of the CSBG Act.

Q: Where do Tribes get information on the Community Services Block Grant?  How do tribes apply for and implement the grant?

Under contract with the Office of Community Services, Lux Consulting Group, Inc. serves as the Tribal Technical Assistance provider for tribes and tribal organizations receiving direct Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funding.  Lux provides one-to-one assistance for Tribal members completing the Community Services Block Grant application and produces an annual, interactive webinar explaining how to apply for the Community Services Block Grant.  In addition, Lux maintains a CSBG Tribal Technical Assistance website with a Tribal CSBG Directory, notice of funding opportunities, and link to the CSBG Tribal Technical Assistance Newsletter.

Tools and resources to help Tribal grantees apply for and implement the Community Services Block Grant are located on the Tribal CSBG Technical Assistance website.  http://www.luxcg.com/tribalta/ Visit disclaimer page

For application information, read the “Model Tribes/Tribal Organization CSBG Application” located on the Federal CSBG website. /programs/ocs/resource/csbg-model-tribal-plan

For Contact:
Jane Golden, Program Specialist for CSBG, at (202) 401-9380 or jane.golden@acf.hhs.gov

Go Back to Top

Assets For Independence (AFI)Photo of tribal chieftains headdress

Q: What is Assets for Independence?

The Assets for Independence (AFI) program awards grants for local demonstration projects that provide special-purpose, matched savings accounts called Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) to eligible individuals.  Every dollar of earned income that an AFI project participant deposits into their IDA is matched (from $1 to $8 in combined federal and non-federal funds) by the AFI project. AFI participants use their IDAs and project matching funds for one of three allowable assets:

  • A first home
  • Capitalization of a small business
  • Post-secondary education or training

The AFI program has authority to make grants to non-profits with 501(c) (3) status; State or local, and Tribal government agencies applying jointly with a non-profit with 501(c) (3) status; and financial institutions that are federally certified as a Low-Income Credit Union (LICU) or a Certified Development Financial Institution (CDFI) to implement and demonstrate an asset-based approach for offering low-income families help to move out of poverty to economic self-sufficiency.

Q: How does AFI assist Tribes?

In addition to grants, the AFI program provides training and technical assistance to grantees.  Through the AFI Resource Center website Visit disclaimer page , AFI provides technical assistance and resources for potential AFI grantees, including tribal governments.

Q: How can a Tribal government or agency receive funding from the AFI program?

The AFI program has a standing funding opportunity announcement Visit disclaimer page (FOA) through federal fiscal year 2017.

Additionally, in recent years OCS has partnered with the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) on a joint FOA called the Native Asset Building Initiative (NABI).  Through the NABI FOA, applicants propose one project with two funding sources, OCS/AFI and ANA/Social and Economic Development Strategies (SEDS). There is not an open NABI FOA at this time.

To view the expired 2015 NABI FOA, go to /grants/open/foa/index.cfm?switch=foa&fon=...
For further information please visit the Assets for Independence website.
For Contact: Vernae Martin, Program Manager for AFI, at (202) 401-5692 or vernae.martin@acf.hhs.gov

Go Back to Top

Current as of: