Challenge Team Interim Report
Team Number: 079
School Name: Shiprock High School
Area of Science: Behavioral and Social Sciences
Project Title: Welfare Reform on the Reservation
In the summer of 1996, Congress finally passed and the President signed the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996," which radically transformed the nationís welfare system. The problem our group is addressing is how the welfare reform will affect the high rate of Navajo welfare clients on the reservation. This is an important issue because it will effect a high percentage of Navajos who donít have jobs.
Our plan is to compare and analyze statistics among age groups and past recipients who have received welfare. Our group will research the new welfare act, analyze the changes, and estimate how severely the act will affect the Navajo people. We will look into possible solutions that will help the Navajo recipients adapt to the welfare reform act.
April 1st, 1998 New Mexico instituted a federal system called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), which is designed to move people off of welfare into the work force. It also places time limits on assistance. Some of the TANF requirements include volunteering, and work participation for 24 hours per week. The clients go through a 15-day assessment, such as determining job skills and training so they can go into a part time job or a full-time job. As part of the TANF program current recipients must be involved in one of the following qualified work activities: paid employment, subsidized public/private employment, on-the-job training, job search and job readiness training (also called job skills training), community service, limited vocational training/education, working toward completion of high school or GED, or be a current child care provider.
Each state has the authority to decide what changes they wish to make as long as they stay within the federal TANF guidelines. The state must present their plans to the legislature and the legislature decides if the changes are proper and approve the plan. The New Mexico plan is called New Mexico Works. According to federal laws, each state has 5 years to phase out the program. The new law is also affecting intergovernmental relationships. On July 1st of 1999, the federal government will allow Indian tribes to take over their own TANF programs. The tribes can then provide more benefits to their own people. States and tribes have the authority to use the federal TANF in any manner that is reasonably calculated to accomplish the purpose of the program. They also have broad flexibility to set eligibility rules and decide what benefits are most appropriate. The law does call for penalties when states do not comply with program requirements, and provide bonuses when states perform well.
Currently, in New Mexicoís San Juan County, approximately 70% of the total clients of the county who are receiving benefits are Navajos who live off and on the reservation. Three-hundred seventy-eight Navajo people live on the reservation and receive the TANF benefits, while one-hundred fifty-three Navajos who receive benefits live off the reservation.
The results we expect to get from this project include compiled statistics among age groups and past recipients who have received welfare benefits. We will compare the age groups of past recipients to the current total of all the Navajo clients on welfare in San Juan County. We plan to come up with projections for clients receiving welfare benefits for the remaining New Mexico Works years of existence, and we hope to come up with possible solutions that will help the Navajo recipients adapt to the Welfare Reform Act.