Cherokee Nation pursues TANF program for needy families

BY STAFF REPORTS
02/28/2019 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation officials are developing the tribe’s own financial assistance program aimed at helping needy families become self-sufficient.

Legislation signed on Jan. 18 by Principal Chief Bill John Baker allows for the development of a Tribal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families plan, also known as a TANF. It will be submitted for approval by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which provides states and tribes with funding to financially assist needy families that qualify.

Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley said the hope is to begin administering the TANF program on April 1.

“We know we’ll be in 14 counties once that TANF operation gets under way,” she said. “We’re already moving people around.”

Oklahoma has been administering TANF assistance to eligible Oklahoma citizens, including tribal citizens. Under the CN proposal, Career Services would be in charge of the tribe’s TANF program.

“The emphasis of TANF has shifted to assisting needy families obtain gainful employment, leading to self-sufficiency,” the legislation states. “Career Services has both the expertise and experience to develop and operate a high quality, successful TANF program.”

The Career Services office has been working with both the federal government and Muscogee (Creek) Nation, which administers a TANF plan for its tribal citizens. The MCN program’s mission is to “strengthen American Indian and Alaskan Native families’ ability to attain self-sufficiency by providing financial assistance, work experience opportunities and career coaching in a consultative manner that educates, encourages and promotes self-reliance.” It provides cash assistance “on a time limited basis.”

“A new emphasis on work and personal responsibility requires families to engage in weekly work activities,” the MCN website states. “A total of 20 hours is required for a one-parent household with a two-parent required to complete 30 hours.”

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