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 Home > News & Policies > February 2002


Improve Program Performance


Maintaining state flexibility and the existing TANF goal structure are two of the basic principles underlying the Administration’s proposal. TANF has allowed States to become great innovators. At the same time, the shift to work and family-based aid has presented management challenges.

In keeping with the President’s focus on governing with accountability, increased emphasis should be focused on results rather than dollars spent. Outcome-based performance measurement is an important component of an overall management and accountability system. State and local administrators seeking to provide increasingly better customer service and TANF outcomes must set clear and measurable goals.

States currently submit to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services a state plan that describes the basic elements of their TANF programs. This proposal will modify current law by requiring states to explain how they intend to pursue the key objectives of TANF and how they will review their performance. States will be required to establish program goals and report annually on their success in meeting those goals. This new emphasis on information systems and accountability will have the added benefit of further increasing states’ flexibility because reporting systems will allow the Federal Government to exercise necessary oversight without falling into the trap of micro-management.

Summary of Proposals

Focus on Employment Achievements. Under current law, states can compete for bonuses that are designed to recognize and reward high performing states. This proposal will replace the current High Performance Bonus with a $100 million a year Bonus to Reward Employment Achievement. Emphasis will be placed on outcomes in achieving the employment goals of TANF. The formula for measuring state performance will be developed in consultation with the states and will specify annual numerical targets for individual states. This approach will make the bonus more predictable and useful for management purposes than is the case with the current bonus. States will compete against their performance in the previous year. All states could be eligible for a bonus in any given year if their performance meets established targets. The Secretary of HHS will annually rank all states in the order of their performance on indicators measuring employment, retention, and wage increase.

Address All TANF Purposes. This proposal will require states to describe in their state plan how they are addressing each of the TANF purposes, and how these will help to improve the well-being of children. The Secretary’s certification of state plan completeness will include a finding that the plan addresses each of the TANF purposes.

Set Performance Goals. Under this proposal, the general structure of the state plan provisions will be retained, but new attention will be focused on performance goals and measurement. States will be required to establish specific numerical performance goals for accomplishing each of the TANF purposes, including measures consistent with the Employment Achievement Bonus indicators. States will have full flexibility to define their performance goals, but will have to describe them in their state plans.

Measure and Report Performance. States will have to take necessary actions to achieve their performance goals, and measure their annual performance relative to these goals. States will have full flexibility to define their measurement methodology, as long as they describe it in their state plans. States will prepare annual performance reports updating their progress in achieving their numerical goals.

Conduct Research and Provide Technical Assistance. Under this proposal, HHS will research the best ways to construct performance measures that relate to the various goals of the TANF program. HHS will collaborate with states to identify key measures and build uniform data support and reporting methodologies; this approach will help states better measure their progress toward fulfilling the goals of TANF.

Revise Data Reporting Requirements. This proposal will modify state data collection requirements to focus on the data that are most useful in helping state and local program administrators improve management and performance. These data will also be useful for Federal oversight and research. Data will include information on TANF-funded services and supports, including Federal and state expenditures and expenditures for major categories of activities. This policy will be an important improvement over current law, which requires states to submit quarterly reports with disaggregated case record information on families receiving TANF assistance, but that do not address TANF-funded services.

Addressing Areas of Special Attention. States will be required to describe in their state plans particular strategies and programs they are employing to address the following important TANF challenges:

  • employment retention and advancement;
  • outreach to, and services for, struggling and non-compliant families;
  • services and programs for clients with special problems;
  • youth development;
  • use of faith-based organizations and efforts related to charitable choice;
  • improved program management and performance; and
  • program integration

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