NCAI Urges Congress to Reach a Long-Term Budget Agreement that Meets the Nation’s Obligations to Tribal Nations

Mini CRs Would Reopen Some Tribal Governmental Services

As the partial government shutdown continues across the nation with urgent and significant impacts to Indian Country, the House and Senate remain at odds over how to reopen government operations. NCAI continues to call for Congress to reach a longer-term budget agreement that meets the nation’s obligations to tribal nations and Native peoples. The federal government has made treaty commitments to tribal people, and in return tribes ceded the vast lands that make up the United States. The fiscal solution for Indian Country must remove sequestration reductions to critical tribal operations for FY2014 in addition to reopening critical government operations.

The House has begun to advance targeted Continuing Resolutions at current spending levels (which maintain sequestration) to reopen what are considered critical areas of government operations until December 15, 2013. These “mini CRs” include four that would affect Indian Country and tribal programs.

One of the measures, H.J. Res. 80, American Indian and Alaska Native, Health, Education, and Safety Act, provides immediate funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and Indian Health Service at the same rate and under the same conditions as in effect at the end of the just completed fiscal year. Funds are available until another appropriation (such as regular bill or CR) is enacted for these operations or December 15, 2013. Three others would also be important for Indian Country: H.J. Res. 83: Impact Aid for Local Schools, H.J. Res. 84: Head Start for Low-Income Children Act and H.J. Res. 75: Nutrition Assistance for Low-Income Women and Children Act, which provides immediate funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

The American Indian and Alaska Native, Health, Education, and Safety Act (H.J. Res 80) is not likely to come up on the House floor until Monday.

Summary

Any relief from the shutdown for tribes, many of which are experiencing dire situations due to the shutdown, would be welcome. NCAI appreciates that Congressman Simpson (R-ID) and others in the House are working to include tribal programs in reopening critical governmental operations, albeit at sequester levels. Tribes in the Great Plains are in the middle of a roaring blizzard, airports are closed, flights are cancelled, and schools are closed in the midst of this shutdown. Tribes are dealing with emergencies such as assisting dialysis patients, assisting the elderly, and all without pay. In that context, NCAI thanks Congressman Simpson and Cole for their efforts in reopening critical governmental operations in Indian Country.

However, even if the shutdown is resolved soon, a greater crisis remains – both the House and Senate versions of a clean CR would sustain the devastating FY 2013 sequestration cuts. The sequester 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. These funding commitments serve some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens and are part of the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribal nations. The failure to come to a budget agreement threatens the capacity of tribal governments to deliver basic governmental services to their citizens. (See a policy paper on sequestration in Indian Country, updated September 2013.)

Outlook

Senator Reid has stated that Democrats would prefer to pass a clean CR at the current sequester level of spending, $986 billion, to open all government operations before any further negotiations. The Obama administration earlier Wednesday issued a veto threat against all of the piecemeal spending resolutions. The House passed other mini CRs to fund the National Parks (H.J. Res. 70), the National Institutes of Health (H.J. Res. 73), veterans (H.J. Res. 72) and the National Guard and reserves (H.R. 3230). In response to Senate Republican efforts seeking unanimous consent to pass the mini CRs, Senator Reid sought to amend the bills to reflect the full clean CR (H.J. Res. 59) that the Senate passed last week.

Take Action

NCAI continues to urge Congress to reopen government operations for all federal agencies that meet trust and treaty obligations to tribal nations and to stop sequestration for FY 2014. Funding for programs that fulfill the solemn agreements signed by our forebears has historically received bipartisan support in Congress. NCAI and tribes urge members of Congress to remember the bipartisan and respectful way in which trust and treaty promises have been addressed before.

Background Data

Programs Affected by Shutdown

Other programs important to Indian Country affected by the shutdown include: Food Distribution on Indian Reservations; Housing and Urban Development’s Native American Housing Block Grant; Environmental Protection Agency’s State Revolving Funds, Tribal General Assistance, and Infrastructure Assistance; Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Native American Programs; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Child Care, Social Services Block Grant, Child Welfare Services and the Community Service Block Grant programs.

Programs Affected by Sequestration

Key Programs Cuts

FY13 Sequester cuts (millions)

Indian Health Service

220

DOI, BIA Operation of Indian Programs

119

DOI, BIA Construction

6

DOI, Office of Special Trustee for AI

8

HUD, Native American Housing Block Grant

33

Indian Head Start

12

HHS: ACF, ANA, LIHEAP, Child Welfare, CSBG

10.5

DofEd: Impact Aid, Indian Education, HEA III,

67.1

EPA: SRFs, Tribal General Assistance, Infrastructure

7

DOJ: Tribal Youth Program, COPS, Tribal Resources Grant Program

2.8

DOL: Native American Programs-Employment and Training & Youth Activities

3

Food Distribution on Indian Reservations

5.4

NCAI Contact Information: Amber Ebarb, Budget & Policy Analyst- aebarb@ncai.org

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.

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