NCAI Action Alert: Potential Government Shutdown and Indian Country

With just hours before a lapse in appropriations for many government functions, Congress continues to debate a Continuing Resolution for FY 2014.  Without appropriated funding, many federal agencies and programs must cease operations, except in emergency situations. Under the Antideficiency Act, the federal government is prohibited from spending during lapsed appropriations, entering into contracts or other obligations, and providing government services and employees beyond those essential “to emergency situations, where the failure to perform those functions would result in an imminent threat to the safety of human life or the protection of property.”There are three fiscal crises that tribes and the nation are facing right now.  The first most imminent crisis is the possibility of a federal government shutdown.  This broadcast will address potential impacts of that scenario.  Secondly, both the House and Senate versions of the CR keep intact the deep FY 2013 sequestration cuts affecting tribal communities. Sequestration has deeply affected tribal programs: the Indian Health Service, Indian education funding streams, law enforcement, infrastructure programs such as housing and road maintenance, Head Start, and others. Even if a shutdown is averted, the continuing sequester level funding is severely inadequate.

The major crisis is ongoing sequestration levels for domestic spending and the effects (absent any specific tribal exemption) on trust and treaty obligations. Third, the next crisis will be the issue of raising the federal debt ceiling, which is possibly where a larger budget agreement could be made and where sequestration could be stopped or replaced with other deficit reduction. More resources on sequestration in Indian Country may be viewed here:

Messages to Share with Congress

  • Avoid a shutdown, but ultimately, stop and replace sequestration, which unfairly breaks treaty promises to tribal nations.
  • The FY2013 sequester and potential FY 2014 sequester harm critical services to American Indian/Alaska Native children, students, families, and the most vulnerable in our communities.
  • The trust responsibility is a federal commitment that should be honored in good budget times as well as in difficult budget times.

View each agency’s shutdown contingency plans here:

The Department of Interior includes other fact sheets on their budget website in addition to shutdown contingency plans:

Summaries from Contingency Plans

Department of Health and Human Services

  • Indian Health Service (IHS) – IHS would continue to provide direct clinical health care services as well as referrals for contracted services that cannot be provided through IHS clinics.
  • Administration for Children and Families (ACF) – ACF would continue mandatory funded programs including the Federal Parent Locator Service, Personal Responsibility Education, and Health Profession Opportunity Grants. Child support and foster care services will also continue because they receive advanced appropriations in the FY 2013 appropriation process. All permissible activities for the Unaccompanied Alien Children program under an exception of preserving human life will continue.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – SAMHSA would continue programs such as the Disaster Distress Helpline, Treatment Locator, Treatment Referral Line, and Suicide Prevention Lifeline using available grant balances.

Activities that WOULD NOT continue

  • IHS would be unable to provide funding to Tribes and Urban Indian health programs, and would not perform national policy development and issuance, oversight, and other functions, except those necessary to meet the immediate needs of the patients, medical staff, and medical facilities.
  • ACF would not continue quarterly formula grants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Child Care, Social Services Block Grant, Refugee Programs, Child Welfare Services and the Community Service Block Grant programs. Additionally new discretionary grants, including Head Start and social services programs, would not be made.

Department of Interior
Out of a total of 8,143 employees in the office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, BIA, and BIE, 2,860 will be furloughed.

Bureau of Indian Affairs
With a potential shutdown on October 1, 2013, the BIA will be required to administratively furlough all employees unless they are covered in an Excepted or Exempted positions. The BIA will also discontinue most of its services to tribes which will impact most programs and activities.

Services and programs that will remain operational.

  • Law enforcement and operation of detention centers.
  • Social Services to protect children and adults.
  • Irrigation and Power – delivery of water and power.
  • Firefighting and response to emergency situations.

Services and programs that would be ceased.

  • Management and protection of trust assets such as lease compliance and real estate transactions.
  • Federal oversight on environmental assessments, archeological clearances, and endangered species compliance.
  • Management of oil and gas leasing and compliance.
  • Timber Harvest and other Natural Resource Management operations.
  • Tribal government related activities.
  • Payment of financial assistance to needy individuals, and to vendors providing foster care and residential care for children and adults.
  • Disbursement of tribal funds for tribal operations including responding to tribal government request.

Bureau of Indian Education
Funding for school operations is forward funded. Bureau of Indian Education funds are also available to sustain operations throughout the 2013-2014 School Year. The Department of Education has provided funds for the period July 01, 2013 through June 30, 2014. These funds and BIE funds will be used to maintain operations of education programs during a lapse of appropriations.

Services that will remain operational:

  • All BIE funded schools, including Haskell Indian Nations University and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, will remain open.
  • BIE will maintain staff required to provide a safe and secure environment for students in all schools.
  • BIE will ensure all resources and capabilities to support school operations, facilities and communications infrastructure are in place.
  • Transportation and maintenance of schools will continue.
  • Contracted schools operations are forward funded and will remain open.

Housing and Urban Development
Indian Housing Block Grant and Indian Community Development Block Grant recipients will still have access to their money but grantees who haven’t returned their signed grant agreements will not have access. TA and training requests approved before today may still happen.

  • Only excepted staff in the Office of Public and Indian Housing and the Office of Native American Programs will be available to respond to emergency issues. There will be no staff to answer non-emergency questions. The contact information for PIH emergency operations during the government shutdown will be posted on the HUD website.
  • In the event of a government shutdown, all meetings and appearances related to non-excepted activities would be cancelled.
  • No travel for the purposes of monitoring or technical assistance will take place during the government shutdown unless it is for emergency purposes.

US Department of Agriculture
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will continue operations and eligible households will still receive monthly benefits for October. The authority to make October benefit payments comes from the Recovery Act, through which Congress provided “such sums as are necessary” to finance the SNAP benefit provided for in the Recovery Act. In addition, about $2 billion in contingency funding will be available and could be used to support State Administrative activities essential to continue the program and issue and process benefits. These contingency funds were provided in the FY 2013 appropriation and do not expire until the end of FY 2014.

  • No additional federal funds would be available to support the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)’s clinical services, food benefits and administrative costs. States may have some funds available from infant formula rebates or other sources, including spend forward authority, to continue operations for a week or so, but States would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period. Contingency funds will be available to help States – but even this funding would not fully mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October.
  • Similarly, no new funds will be available to support the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). While there would be some inventory available for use in food packages, no carryover, contingency or other funds would be available to support continued operations.

Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

  • The Employment & Training Administration within the Department of Labor will cease operations – including the office administering the Native American Workforce Investment Act Program – except for: unemployment insurance; the operations of Job Corps centers through November 1, 2013; and the electronic systems needed to process Job Corps, National Emergency Grants for FEMA declared disasters, or other items.

Department of Education

  • 90 percent of employees in the Department of Education will be furloughed.
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I and II and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B State Grants, and Career and Technical Education funds are already appropriated under advance appropriations formula grants to states.
  • A protracted delay in Department obligations and payments beyond one week would severely curtail the cash flow to school districts, colleges and universities, and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on the Department’s funds to support their services. For example, many school districts receive more than 20 percent of their funds from Department-funded programs. Colleges rely on Higher Education funds to pay ongoing expenses of staff running programs for disadvantaged students seeking to enter and stay in college. Vocational rehabilitation agencies receive 80 percent of the cost of providing services to adult individuals with disabilities from the Department’s program.
  • Under a shutdown, the likely disruption to Department grant programs will be a potential delay in activities necessary to make competitive and formula grant awards later in the year. For the most part, these employees will be furloughed. In addition, citizens and institutions seeking specific information regarding the impact of a shutdown will have limited access to information.

Many other programs that serve Indian Country may not be included in this short broadcast, but details may be found on the contingency plan website, or at specific agency websites.


NCAI Contact Information: Amber Ebarb, Budget/Policy Analyst –

Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights.