Q & A: TANF and WIOA
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Combined and Unified plans
Q1. What is the difference between a unified and a combined plan?
A1. Under WIOA, the governor of each state may elect to submit either a unified plan or a combined plan to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The plan should outline the state’s four-year strategy for their workforce development system. A unified plan includes the six WIOA core programs, whereas a combined plan includes the core programs and at least one combined state plan partner program. TANF is among the list of partner programs for combined plan inclusion.
Q2. What are the six WIOA core programs?
A2. Three of the core programs are the Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth formula programs, administered by the DOL, which together are referred to as Title I programs, because they are authorized under Title I of WIOA. The remaining three core programs are: the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act programs and the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, administered by the Department of Education (ED); and the Wagner-Peyser Act programs, administered by DOL.
Q3. What are the WIOA partner programs?
A3. The partner programs, also called optional programs, are:
- (HHS-administered) TANF; Community Services Block Grant;
- (ED-administered) Career and Technical Education programs authorized under the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006;
- (USDA-administered) Employment and Training programs and Work programs under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program;
- (DOL-administered) Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers programs; Jobs for Veterans State Grants programs; Unemployment Insurance programs (programs authorized under State unemployment compensation laws in accordance with applicable Federal law); Senior Community Service Employment program; and Reintegration of Ex-Offenders;
- (HUD-administered) Employment and Training activities carried by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Q4. What must a state include in a unified plan?
A4. A state that submits a unified plan must include strategic and operational planning elements (i.e., the common planning elements), as outlined in the statute. Also, it must describe the operating systems and policies that support the implementation of the state’s strategies to align its workforce resources, as well as program requirements specific to the core programs. This information can be found in the Information Collection Request (ICR) for the WIOA Unified and Combined State Plans Requirements. The final version was published on February 18, 2016, and can be found on DOL’s website at https://www.doleta.gov/wioa/State_Plan_Resources.cfm. While TANF is not a partner in the unified plan, we strongly encourage the inclusion of the TANF agency in a state’s planning process. We remind states that the statute requires them to lay out in the plan a strategic vision and goals for preparing an educated and skilled workforce, which includes TANF families (section 102 (b)(1)(E)), and to describe how they will operationalize the vision including the strategies they will use to align core programs, required and optional one-stop partners, and other resources (section 102(b)(1)(B)(i)-(iii). Therefore, the state should include discussion of TANF clients and services in sections of the unified plan.
Q5. What must a state include in a combined plan that includes TANF as a partner?
A5. A state that submits a combined plan with TANF as a partner, must include: 1) the common planning elements required in the unified state plan; 2) additional elements describing how the state will coordinate the optional programs with the core programs (WIOA section 103(b)(3)); and 3) program-specific requirements of the optional programs in the combined plan. Thus, states that choose to include TANF must include all of the plan requirements of section 402 of the Social Security Act, including plan certifications, just as it would in a stand-alone TANF plan. Again, we remind states that their plan’s strategic vision and goals for preparing an educated and skilled workforce should include TANF families, as should the operational elements that explain state strategies to align core programs, required and optional one-stop partners.
Q6. How does a state submit a WIOA plan?
A6. A state must have submitted its initial WIOA combined plan or unified plan no later than April 1, 2016, using the online submission portal housed by the Rehabilitative Services Administration (RSA) servers at https://rsa.ed.gov/request-access.cfm?usp=Y. Instructions on how to request user accounts are available at the web link provided.
Q7. If a state’s WIOA combined plan includes the TANF program, what are the implications for an existing TANF plan?
A7. If TANF is included as a partner in a state’s WIOA combined plan, the combined plan will incorporate the TANF plan and must include all the required elements of a TANF plan. Once the TANF portion of the combined plan is officially determined complete by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the combined plan will take the place of the state’s existing TANF plan.
Q8. When does the TANF plan, submitted as part of the state’s WIOA combined plan, take effect?
A8. State unified and combined plans were considered timely if submitted by April 1, 2016, using the WIOA state plan web portal described earlier. The TANF section of a combined plan takes effect once HHS has officially determined it to be complete. The WIOA statute requires HHS action on the TANF-specific portion of the plan within 120 days of the date the state submits the combined plan.
Q9. How does a state post its combined state plan in a way that complies with the TANF notice requirement set forth in section 402(a)(4) of the Social Security Act?
A9. Section 402(a)(4) of the Social Security Act requires a governor to assure that local governments and private sector organizations have been consulted about the plan and the design of welfare services in the state so that services are provided in a manner appropriate to local populations and have had at least 45 days to submit comments on the plan. That requirement continues to apply when TANF is included in a combined plan under WIOA. There is no single mechanism that a state must use to meet the requirement. The state has the discretion to determine how it will meet this requirement; however, there must be a clear method for submitting comments.
Q10. Can a state use OLDC to submit a combined plan that includes TANF?
A10. No. States will only use ACF’s On-Line Data Collection (OLDC) system to submit stand-alone TANF plans (i.e., ones that are not part of a WIOA combined plan). If a state chooses to submit a WIOA combined plan that includes TANF, it must use the WIOA state plan web portal https://rsa.ed.gov/request-access.cfm?usp=Y described earlier.
Q11. If a state opts not to include TANF as part of its initial combined plan, may it do so in the future?
A11. Yes. A state may modify its WIOA plan to include TANF as a formal combined plan partner at any time. As states gain greater experience in implementing WIOA, we anticipate more states will include TANF in their combined plans and encourage them to do so.
Q12. Can a cover letter signed by the Governor stand in place of separately signed TANF certifications for a WIOA Combined Plan?
A12. Yes. 42 U.S.C. § 602 requires a number of “certification[s] by the chief executive officer of the State.” In order to meet this requirement, the TANF portion of a WIOA combined plan must have all the necessary certifications marked “yes” and the signed Governor’s letter must specifically acknowledge that all assurances contained within the program specific requirements across all programs in the plan have been met. Because the portal does not allow text to be entered into the TANF certifications, the state should identify within the body of the TANF-specific portion of the plan which state agency or agencies will administer and supervise the program, in accordance with the requirement at section 402(a)(4) of the Social Security Act. It should send the signed cover letter to the regional office. (Posted: 6/25/2018)
Q1. When must a state amend the TANF portion of its WIOA combined plan?
A1. WIOA combined plans are four year plans, but states are required to submit modifications at the end of the first two years. For any program in a combined plan that has a different planning cycle from WIOA, states should submit program-specific modifications that align with the planning cycles for each specific program, unless the two-year WIOA modification cycle already meets that program’s planning and amendment cycle requirements.
For TANF, the law requires a state to have submitted a plan within 27 months of the end of the first fiscal quarter in order to receive TANF funds for that fiscal year. Thus, adopting the more frequent two-year WIOA cycle for modifications should accommodate TANF’s timeframe, allowing a state to make changes to TANF’s portion of the combined state plan concurrently with the core programs.
Additionally, as has always been the case, a state can amend the TANF portion of the plan at any time. States will use the WIOA portal described above to submit amendments to the TANF portion of a combined plan.
Q2. How does a state amend its TANF plan if it is not part of a WIOA combined plan?
A2. Amendments to a state TANF plan that are not part of a WIOA combined plan will be processed as they are now. States must submit them via OLDC.
Q1. How should a state that includes TANF in its WIOA combined plan reconcile differing plan renewal schedules?
A1. As we note above in the questions on amendments, if a program in a combined plan has a different planning cycle from WIOA, a state should submit program-specific changes to meet the planning cycle for that program. TANF requires a state to have submitted a plan within 27 months of the end of the first fiscal quarter in order to receive TANF funds for that fiscal year; WIOA requires a plan modification after two years of a four-year plan. If, at the two-year point, a state submits a complete TANF plan (i.e., one that includes all of the plan requirements of section 402 of the Social Security Act) we could consider it to be a TANF plan renewal, not simply an amendment to the TANF plan.
Q2. Should a state use OLDC to submit a plan renewal if TANF is included in a WIOA combined plan?
A2. No. A state must submit WIOA combined plans via the WIOA state plan portal and will no longer need to submit plans into OLDC if TANF is included in a combined plan.
Q1. How does conditional approval by DOL or a lack of approval of a combined WIOA plan that includes TANF affect continuation of TANF funding and programs?
A1. A state retains TANF eligibility as long as it has a TANF plan in effect. The Secretary of HHS is responsible for determining the completeness of the TANF portion of a combined plan. Thus, conditional approval by DOL does not impact the TANF portion of a combined plan. HHS will send a separate letter from DOL notifying a state if the TANF portion of the plan has been determined to be complete.
Q1. If the governor opts out of having TANF as a required one-stop partner, can TANF still be part of the WIOA combined or unified plan?
A1. It is the governor’s decision whether to submit a WIOA unified or combined, irrespective of a decision to exclude TANF as a required one-stop partner. Both the combined and unified plans must outline the state’s strategic vision and goals for preparing an educated and skilled workforce, which includes TANF families. As such, we strongly encourage the inclusion of the TANF agency in a state’s planning process to ensure a workforce delivery system that prepares all individuals, including those with barriers to employment, with the education and skills needed in the workforce.
Q2. If the governor does not opt out of having TANF as a required one-stop partner, must TANF be included in a WIOA combined plan?
A2. No. As we note above, TANF is one of the optional programs for the combined plan. A state may choose to have a combined plan but not include TANF as a partner in that plan. That decision is separate from the governor’s determination of whether to keep TANF as a required one-stop partner. Conversely, a governor could opt not to make TANF a required one-stop partner but still submit a WIOA combined plan that includes TANF.
Q1. Is there additional guidance about submitting a combined or unified WIOA?
A1. Yes. The Department of Labor has a wealth of information about all aspects WIOA on its WIOA webpage www.doleta.gov/wioa and its state planning resources webpage https://www.doleta.gov/wioa/State_Plan_Resources.cfm. In particular, we recommend that states consult links on these pages to the Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) 14-15, the Information Collection Request (ICR), and additional training for submitting plans via the portal.