Tribal TANF

Federally recognized Indian tribes can apply for funding to administer and operate their own TANF programs. This option is described under section 412 Visit disclaimer page of the Social Security Act, as amended by Pub.L.104-193. As of 2018, there are 74 approved Tribal TANF programs. These programs serve 284 federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native Villages.

Tribal TANF gives federally recognized Indian tribes flexibility in the design of welfare programs that promote work and responsibility and strengthen families. Similar to states, they receive block grants to design and operate programs that accomplish one of the four purposes of the TANF program.

The four purposes of the TANF program are:

  • Provide assistance to needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives
  • End the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage
  • Prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies
  • Encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families

Indian tribes are required to submit a three-year Tribal TANF plan to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) for review and approval. The approved Tribal TANF programs then receive a portion of the state TANF block grant from the state where the tribe is located.

Tribes administering their own TANF program have great flexibility in program design and implementation.  They can define elements of their programs such as:  service area, service population (e.g., all Indian families in the service area or only enrolled members of the tribe), time limits, benefits and services, family composition, eligibility criteria, and work and work activities. Tribes have the ability to establish, through negotiation with HHS, program work participation rate targets and required work hours.  Also, they can establish what benefits and services will be available and develop their own strategies for achieving program goals, including how to help recipients move off welfare and become self-sufficient.

You can find out more about the Tribal TANF Program on the following pages.

Policy & Guidance

The Tribal TANF program is governed by its authorizing statute, regulations, and policy guidance.  These are all available on this page.  Additionally, here you will find policy clarifications in the form of questions and answers (Q&As), reporting instructions for Tribal TANF programs, and other resources useful to Tribal TANF grantees in managing their programs.

How to become a Tribal TANF Program

An overview of the considerations and steps involved in becoming a Tribal TANF program. Includes descriptions of the Letter of Intent, the Tribal Family Assistance Plan, and Tribal TANF Program Guidance.

Training & Technical Assistance

The Office of Family Assistance provides Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) to state, tribal, and local TANF programs.

OFA Peer TA Visit disclaimer page

Office of Family Assistance PeerTA logo people form a bridge

Have an innovative solution? Or are you wondering how other tribal programs handled a challenge you are facing? Check out OFA Peer TA. Peer TA’s goal is to establish linkages among TANF agencies and their partners serving TANF and low-income families at the state, county, local, and tribal level. 

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