Chapter 4.5: Data Tracking
The amount and type of information to be monitored will vary based on the funding source and jurisdiction. Local funding sources may require detailed reports of expenditures. In some cases, each bus pass, gas voucher, dial-a-ride passenger, etc. must be tracked back to the appropriate subsidized program and funding source. Data tracking may mean different things to different organizations, and the amount of information that can realistically be collected must be carefully evaluated.
The Job Access Guidance, released in December 1998 and developed by the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services and Transportation, provides clarification as to the level of detail required for data tracking and reporting purposes. Prior to the December 1998 Guidance, it was unclear whether a State would be penalized or forced to return TANF dollars allocated to a program or service if it overestimated participating TANF eligible individuals. As a result, communities were reluctant to invest in transportation services for fear funding would not cover committed expenses. The Job Access Guidance explains that after the program/service start-up period, original estimates must be re-evaluated at least annually, and prospectively adjusted as needed; however, changes in funding levels will only affect future years. Any TANF funds used in a project after the start-up period (if applicable) must be based on a current estimate. TANF agencies may use sampling to arrive at a new estimate relieving administering agencies of the difficulty in tracking information regarding each passenger or individual.
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has published a final rule that governs key provisions of the TANF program (http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/ofa/). It incorporates the core TANF accountability provisions, including work requirements, time limits, State penalties, and data collection and reporting requirements. The final TANF rules regarding transportation do not "tick" a recipient's 60 month eligibility clock. Also available at the ACF web site is "A Guide on Funding Services for Children and Families Through the TANF Program" (http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/ofa/funds2.htm) that can assist planners and administrators understand how these provisions may be applied to their programs and services.