Obama moves tribes from “discretionary” to “mandatory non-discretionary” for contract support cost of IHS

WASHINGTON — Today, President Obama took a historic step in recognizing and reaffirming true government-to-government relations and in honoring the trust responsibility to American Indian tribes pursuant to treaties and the U.S. Constitution.

President Obama took action no previous United States president has done by promoting to move a portion of federal funding for American Indian tribes from “discretionary” to “mandatory non-discretionary.” This means that the devastating impacts of sequestration in recent years will no longer affect Contract Support Cost (CSC) which is a fee of sorts on top of federal funding for the administration of Indian Health Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs funding.

In 2014, Aaron Payment, chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, successfully negotiated a settlement of past CSC claims for the Sault Tribe and recovered $1.3 million.  Stabilizing this funding will better ensure continuity of essential programs and services.

On the national scale, the President’s proposal for Indian Health Services alone would make CSC funding reoccurring and mandatory in the amount of $800 million in the first year, $900 million in year two and $1 billion annually in year three!  This move would also make CSC “X-Year” funded meaning it is not subject to recessionary efforts if not all of the amount is used in a single fiscal cycle.

This recommendation comes as the IHS CSC Workgroup wraps up its yearlong charge – serving in an advisory capacity to the Interim IHS Director, including workgroup member Chairperson Aaron Payment who is quoted as saying, “we worked for just over a year to work through all of the technical aspects of this complex issue and to develop a spreadsheet CSC calculator to demonstrate the predictability of the model, show accountability, and build confidence in the use of federal funds.”  Payment reflected, “I am humbled to have played a role in facilitating effective communications between tribal representatives and our federal partners.  It was an historical feat for which our ancestors would be proud.”

The work left to do is to urge Congress to uphold their Constitutional and trust responsibility in honoring the treaties by permanently enacting this legislation to make CSC funds mandatory.  Chairperson Payment has pledged to use his role as a CSC Workgroup Member and as Vice President of the Mid West Alliance of Sovereign Tribes and the National Congress of American Indians (Midwest Region) to get this final task over the finish line.

Correction: This article stated $1 trillion by mistake. The figure is $1 billion, as corrected, in referencing the CSC recurring funding. Correction made at 5:29 p.m. – ET.

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