The Firm has recently been involved in successful efforts to lobby for enactment of the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act of 2017 (Act). On December 18, 2017, this comprehensive amendment to the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992 (as amended), was signed into law. This legislation is codified at 25 U.S.C. §§ 3401–3417 and is more commonly referred to as PL 477 (because the original law was PL 102-477).
The PL 477 program allows tribal organizations to combine certain federal funds that come from varied sources, but all pertain to employment, training, or related services into a single plan with a single budget and reporting system. The PL 477 program provides tribal organizations more flexibility in deciding how to spend their federal funds, and they are therefore able to design programs that are more successful based on the unique needs of their own community members. It also allows them to streamline administrative processes, including program applications and federal reporting, thereby lowering administrative costs and making more funds available for direct services.
Several years in the making, the Act serves multiple important purposes in strengthening the PL 477 program. It reauthorizes the PL 477 program as permanent rather than as a demonstration project. It clarifies that PL 477 plans require only one annual report or audit and do not require reporting dollar-for-dollar by program—as some federal officials had insisted. It creates strict deadlines and processes for review and approval of PL 477 plans, as some federal officials have wrongly disapproved or delayed approval of eligible programs’ integration within PL 477 plans. It also clarifies the process for agencies to waive requirements of integrated programs.
The Act also expands the types of programs and funding that may be integrated into PL 477 plans. Programs must now meet the following requirements in order to be eligible for integration:
• Agency. In addition to integrating programs operated by the Departments of the Interior, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education, programs operated by the Departments of Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs may also be integrated.
• Purpose. A program must be “implemented for the purpose of” any of the following: “job training”; “welfare to work and tribal work experience”; “creating or enhancing employment opportunities”; “skill development”; “assisting Indian youth and adults to succeed in the workforce”; “encouraging self-sufficiency”; “familiarizing individual participants with the world of work”; “facilitating the creation of job opportunities”; “economic development”; or “any services related to” the above listed activities.
• Funding. A program’s funding must be granted on one of the following grounds: an Indian tribe or members of Indian tribes are eligible to receive funds “under a statutory or administrative formula making funds available to an Indian tribe”; an Indian tribe or members of Indian tribes are eligible to receive funds “based solely or in part on their status as Indians under Federal law”; an Indian tribe or members of Indian tribes “have secured funds as a result of a noncompetitive process or a specific designation”; or the program is funded by a block grant provided to an Indian tribe.
The agencies have a statutory deadline of one year from enactment of the amendment legislation to develop and enter into an interdepartmental memorandum of agreement (MOA) on implementation of the new PL 477 legislation. Federal agency officials and tribal advocates from the PL 477 Work Group will be meeting on February 14, 2018, to discuss next steps.
Please let us know if we may provide further information on the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act of 2017 or its implementation. If you administer a PL 477 plan, or are thinking of doing so, this is an exciting opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the expanded program.