US Senator Heitkamp Sheds Light on Devastating Impact of Across-the-Board Spending Cuts in Indian Country

Native News Online Staff / Currents / 17 Nov 2013 – At a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp shed light on the damage arbitrary across-the-board spending cuts – known as sequestration — has caused Indian Country.

Senator Heitkamp is committed to reducing federal spending, but she is opposed to cuts that disproportionately slash crucial support for our most vulnerable populations – including those in Indian country, who already don’t receive close to enough funding.

“We absolutely need to reduce our deficit, but we can’t do it by slashing support for struggling families – including health care and housing for those in Indian Country,” said Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “Prior to the across-the-board cuts, children and families in Indian Country were living in third-world conditions and often not able to access necessary services. But these cuts are making the situation much worse, as it is now more difficult to help Native Americans families across North Dakota and the country get needed support to feed their families or get an education. We have a moral obligation and treaty responsibilities to make sure Indian Country has crucial services, and by subjecting those services to arbitrary cuts, we are failing to live up to that commitment.”

Sequestration is having a severe impact in Indian Country. For example:

  • Indian Health Services was cut by $220 million, the only direct medical service agency subject to full sequestration cuts.
  • The Bureau of Indian Education was cut approximately $42.2 million.  Impact Aid, a program that funds more than 93% of Indian students’ public schools, was cut by $68 millio
  • Without appropriate funding, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has had to cut back on tribal investigators, and police and detention officers.  Programs, like the Violence Against Women Act, were cut and many rural resident agencies that directly serve Indian Country, like the location in Minot, were forced to closed
  • $34.5 million was cut to the Indian Housing Block grant program that provides tribes and tribally designed housing entities with the flexibility to design and implement housing programs.  The Indian Housing Block grant was a major source of affordable housing assistance provided to Indian tribes.

Senator Heitkamp has been active on Native American issues since she was North Dakota’s Attorney General in the 1990s. Recently, she has introduced her first bill in the Senate, a comprehensive plan to find solutions to the complex challenges facing Native American children. For a summary of Senator Heitkamp’s bill, click here. Heitkamp also raised awareness on the severe effects the federal government shutdown had in Indian Country on the Senate floor in early October. For video of her speech on the Senate floor during the government shutdown, click here.

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