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Q & A: Work Experience

Published: October 22, 2014
Tribal TANF
TANF Guidance, Tribal TANF Plans

Work Experience


Q1:  Are the definitions of subsidized employment, work experience, and on-the-job training the same between the TANF Program, the Department of Labor, and the Native Employment Works Programs?

A1:  No.  The NEW regulations (and statute) do not define subsidized employment, work experience, or on-the-job training for grantees’ NEW programs so tribes have flexibility in doing so.  The definitions of these activities provided by the TANF Program and/or the Department of Labor may provide useful examples and are described below.

The Tribal TANF regulations do not explicitly define subsidized employment, work experience, or on-the-job training; therefore, tribes may reasonably interpret the meaning of these terms and request further guidance from ACF as needed on a case-by-case basis. Tribes are not required to adhere to the definitions in the State TANF regulations but tribes may refer to the definitions in the State TANF regulations for examples of what ACF considers reasonable. The following definitions are found at 45 CFR 261.2:

“(c) Subsidized private sector employment means employment in the private sector for which the employer receives a subsidy from TANF or other public funds to offset some or all of the wages and costs of employing an individual.”

“(d) Subsidized public sector employment means employment in the public sector for which the employer receives a subsidy from TANF or other public funds to offset some or all of the wages and costs of employing an individual.”

“(e) Work experience (including work associated with the refurbishing of publicly assisted housing) if sufficient private sector employment is not available means a work activity, performed in return for welfare, that provides an individual with an opportunity to acquire the general skills, training, knowledge, and work habits necessary to obtain employment. The purpose of work experience is to improve the employability of those who cannot find unsubsidized full-time employment. This activity must be supervised by an employer, work site sponsor, or other responsible party on an ongoing basis no less frequently than once in each day in which the individual is scheduled to participate.”

“(f) On-the-job training means training in the public or private sector that is given to a paid employee while he or she is engaged in productive work and that provides knowledge and skills essential to the full and adequate performance of the job.”

Broadly, ACF considers work experience to be separate from subsidized employment. Work experience participants generally do not receive wages, but the TANF agency may choose to provide grants, incentives, or stipends to encourage participation. On-the-job training, however, is generally considered a type of subsidized employment as participants must be paid employees (i.e., receiving wages).

All three are countable work activities that can be used to fulfill a TANF participant’s work requirements (hours).

ACF consulted with the Department of Labor (DOL) to obtain definitions related to DOL programs. According to the Workforce Investment Act and Regulations, on-the-job training and work experience are two distinct job trainings. For the definition of OJT, please refer to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Public Law 113-128 , Section 101 (44) below.

(44) ON-THE-JOB TRAINING.—The term ‘‘on-the-job training’’ means training by an employer that is provided to a paid participant while engaged in productive work in a job that—

(A) provides knowledge or skills essential to the full and adequate performance of the job;

(B) is made available through a program that provides reimbursement to the employer of up to 50 percent of the wage rate of the participant, except as provided in section 134(c)(3)(H), for the extraordinary costs of providing the training and additional supervision related to the training; and

(C) is limited in duration as appropriate to the occupation for which the participant is being trained, taking into account the content of the training, the prior work experience of the participant, and the service strategy of the participant, as appropriate.

For the purposes of DOL programs, work experience is not specifically defined in the law, but is addressed in the regulations (20 CFR 652, et al.) at 663.200 (b):

“(b) For the purposes of paragraph (a) of this section, work experience is a planned, structured, learning experience that takes place in a workplace for a limited period of time. Work experience may be paid or unpaid, as appropriate. A work experience work place may be in the private for profit sector, or the public sector. Labor standards apply in any work experience where an employee/employer relationship, as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act, exists.”  (Posted: 10/22/2014)

Q2: Can a Tribal TANF program offer a youth work experience?

A2:  Yes, if the activities, services, and eligibility criteria for work experience are included in the tribe’s approved TANF plan  (Posted: 10/22/2014)

Q3:  Tribes are concerned that they are out of compliance regarding work experience and/or on-the-job training payments. For those Tribal TANF programs that may have incorrectly called payments to TANF client’s wages, what must a TANF program do to correct its mistake?

A3:  If a tribe is concerned that it is out of compliance it should contact its ACF Regional Office, and the situation will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Plans and program operations may need to be reviewed to ensure consistency with TANF policy. Practices that are not consistent with applicable TANF policy must be corrected. 45 CFR 286.165 provides information on amending Tribal TANF plans; however, please note that changes made to the plan are prospective, not retroactive.  (Posted: 10/22/2014)

Last Reviewed: May 20, 2019