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2017-05-17 / Top News

Funding Indian Country

Sizing up the 2017 budget; winners and losers
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Today
Managing Editor

WASHINGTON –– In spite of threats to slash programs that benefit Native Americans, President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law an appropriations bill that increases funding for essential Native American programs.

In his budget proposal Trump sought to cut the Department of the Interior by 12 percent and the Department of Health and Human Services by 17.9 percent.

Senate Indian Affairs vice-chairman, Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) applauded congress for appropriating vital funding for economically strapped Indian Tribes.

“As the vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I strongly support this bill’s investment in programs and services that benefit Native Americans. The bill includes new funding for the Indian Health Service's efforts to treat substance abuse through detoxification centers, it will help make infrastructure improvements in Indian schools and hospitals,” Udall said in a press release.

The National Congress of American Indians released the following data for Indian Country.

Bureau of Indian Affairs

The bill would provide $2.86 billion for BIA and BIE, an increase of $63.6 million over the FY 2016 enacted amount, representing a 2.3% increase. Programs receiving the largest increases include: Road Maintenance (+3.6 million, a 13.5% increase), Social Services (+$7.2 million, a 16% increase), ICWA (+$3.3 million, a 21% increase), Housing Improvement (+$1.7 million, 21% increase), Tribal Management and Development (+$2 million, 21% increase), Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (+$1.6 million, +11.4% increase), Education programs overall (+$39.1 million, +4.6% increase), and Indian Guaranteed Loan (+$1 million increase, +13% increase)

Tribal Government: The Small and Needy Tribes program would be increased to $4.4 million to ensure that all tribes receive the maximum base level provided by the Bureau to run tribal governments. The Explanatory text urges BIA to focus the Road Maintenance program increase on roads and bridges in poor or failing condition, particularly along school bus routes. The Bureau is directed to consolidate the reporting requirements for road maintenance contained in the House and Senate reports and to report back to the Committees within 60 days of enactment of this Act.

Tiwahe: The explanatory text directs BIA to report within 90 days after enactment on the performance measures used to monitor the Ti- wahe initiative's effectiveness in Indian Country.

Natural Resources: In addition to the increases noted above, the BIA is directed to enter into a formal partnership with local Tribes and the United States Geological Survey to help develop a water quality strategy for transboundary rivers affected by discharges caused by mines across the Canadian border.

Education: The agreement includes $891.5 million for BIE, a total that is 4.6% higher than the FY 2016 enacted level. ISEP would receive $400.2 million, $2.5 million would fund Tribal Education Departments, and $55.9 million would fund student transportation. The agreement would fully fund Tribal Grant Support Costs at $80.1 million. Also included is a $3.5 million increase for Scholarships and Adult Education (an 11% increase over FY 2016 enacted.)

Public Safety: The agreement includes $385.7 million for public safety and justice programs, of which: $202 million is for criminal investigations and police services; $1 million program increase to implement the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act; $96.5 million for detention/corrections; $10.3 million for law enforcement special initiatives; and $30.7 million for tribal courts (a 9.2% increase). The agreement restores funding for tribal justice support is restored to $17.25 million, of which not less than $10 million is to address the needs of tribes affected by Public Law 83-280.

Construction: The agreement includes $133.26 million for schools and related facilities in the BIE system, equal to the FY 2016 enacted level after accounting for a one-time funding surge in 2016 to reduce the backlog of deferred maintenance projects. The Committees direct the Bureau to submit an allocation plan to the Committees for campuswide replacement within 30 days of enactment of the Act.

Indian Health Service

The bill would provide a total of $5.039 billion for IHS, a 4.8% increase over the FY 2016 enacted amount. Increases include: $14,323,000 for staffing newly opened health facilities, $6,946,000 for behavioral health integration and $3,600,000 for the zero suicide initiative, $6,500,000 for the Generation indigenous initiative; $1,800,000 for the youth pilot project, $117,991,000 for facilities construction (an increase of $12,943,000 from FY16). The omnibus also includes $29 million for Accreditation Emergencies to cover loss or potential loss of a Medicare or Medicaid agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at any facility. Contract Support costs: The omnibus provides an indefinite appropriation for contract support costs estimated to be $800,000,000, an $82,030,000 increase from FY16 levels.

Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is funded at $8.06 billion, $81.4 million below FY16. The budget supports President Trump's executive orders on reviewing and rewriting the Waters of the United States" rule, the Clean Power Plan, agricultural exemptions under the Clean Water Act, and other environmental regulations. The bill includes is a "Buy America" provision for drinking water infrastructure projects. There will be a small reduction in staffing budget impacting program service delivery and environmental quality enforcement. EPA's research and regulatory programs will be $52 million below the current level. Superfund site cleanup is increased by $7.5 million.

The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds

Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds stay at FY16 level funding of $2.3 billion. There is provided an additional $10 million for the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation program, which when combined with previous Continuing Resolution funds will leverage over $3 billion in new infrastructure projects. The bill provides legal authority to assist states in providing debt relief in areas with dangerous health risks from elevated levels of lead in drinking water.

State and Tribal Assistance Grants

The bill provides $3,527,161,000 for the State and Tribal Assistance Grants program and rescinds $61,198,000 of unobligated balances from the STAG program.

Animas River Spill

The Gold King Mine spill into the Animas River significantly impacted areas in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and the Navajo Nation. As authorized by P.L. 114-322, the bill provides $4,000,000 for a long-term water quality monitoring program, and EPA is directed to continue to work in consultation with affected States and Tribes on that effort.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA)

Tribal Behavioral Health Grants would be funded at $30 million ($15 million in the Mental Health appropriation and $15 million in the Substance Abuse Prevention appropriation). The American Indian and Alaskan Native Suicide Prevention program would receive $2.9 million. REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health), $16 million is for Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country at CDC. The Labor-Health-Human Services bill also includes $3 million for Generation Indigenous programs within the Children and Families Services Programs, in addition to the $6.5 million identified in the Interior funding

Administration for Children and Families (ACF)

Within HHS, ACF provides the largest amount of funding to American Indians/Alaska Natives outside of the funds provided by the Indian Health Service. Out of a budget of $33.97 billion, ACF awards on the average $647 million to Native Americans from the following programs: Head Start, Child Care, TANF, LIHEAP, Child Support and the Administration for Native Americans, to name a few. This year's budget included a $5,000,000 increase for Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.

Native American Caregiver Support:

Grants assist American Indian, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian families caring for older relatives with chronic illness or disability and grandparents caring for grandchildren. The program offers a variety of services that meet a range of caregivers' needs, including information and outreach, access assistance, individual counseling, support groups and training, respite care, and other supplemental services.

Department of Education

Native Youth Community Projects: Within Special Programs for Indian Children, the omnibus includes $43.4 million for Native Youth Community Projects, which makes competitive awards to support culturally-relevant coordinated strategies to improve the college- and career-readiness of Native American youth.

Department of Labor

The bill allocates the Department of Labor (DOL) a total of $12.1 billion, which is $83 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level and $710 million below the budget request of the previous Administration.

Native American Programs: As part of the overall total provided to DOL, $50 million is committed to Native American Programs, which is the same amount as was enacted for FY 2016 funding, and $2 million less than the previous Administration requested (NCAI requested a total of $60.5 million in funding for DOL's Division of Indian and Native American Programs in its Fiscal Year 2018 Indian Country Budget Request (p. 88).

Job Corps: The Job Corps program - which helps unemployed young Americans receive education, job training, and employment assistance - is set to receive $1.704 billion, an increase of $15 million in funding from its FY 2016 enacted level. The bill directs DOL to use this funding increase to "prioritize safety and security improvements across the Job Corps system."

Apprenticeship Grants: The bill features $95 million to support Apprenticeship Grants, $5 million more than the program received in FY 2016. The bill directs DOL to prioritize Apprenticeship USA program grants that "engage, recruit, and serve women and other under-represented populations."

Department of Justice

The omnibus appropriations bill adopts a new approach for much of the tribal criminal justice funding at DOJ. Instead of appropriating funds for individual tribal programs at the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, the bill states that up to 7% of the funds appropriated for many of the programs funded through these offices shall be available for "tribal criminal justice assistance" at the discretion of the Attorney General. The funds are to be consolidated and merged "without regard to the authorizations for such grant or reimbursement programs." This language appears to be responsive to tribal requests for increased flexibility in DOJ tribal funding. It is not immediately clear, however, what the practical impacts of this change will be, particularly since we are more than halfway through the fiscal year and DOJ has already released its CTAS solicitation for this year.

Housing and Urban Development

• NAHASDA funding would be $654 million.

• Language is included for reducing the formula allocation to tribes who have unspent funds that are three times the amount of funding.

• Technical Assistance and Training would receive $3.5 million.

• Section 184 would receive $ 7.2 million

• Indian Community Development Block Grant would receive $60 million.

•Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant would receive $2 million

• Tribal HUD-VASH program would receive $7 million.

Department of Transportation

• Tribal Transportation Program $475 million

• Tribal Transit Grant Program (Section 5311 Section (c)) $35 million

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The bill provides $887 million for the SBA to empower American small businesses "to begin, grow, and thrive." Includes in this amount is $245.1 million for entrepreneurial development programs, a $14 million increase over FY 2016 funding (see below). Notable line items composing this subtotal include:

• $125 million for Small Business Development Centers;

• $3 million for the HUB Zone program;

• and $2 million for Native American outreach (the amount requested by NCAI for SBA's Office of Native American Affairs in its Fiscal Year 2018 Indian Country Budget Request - see p. 83).

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund

The bill allocates $248 million for the CDFI Fund program (an interesting development given that the current Administration's proposed "skinny budget" proposed to zero out funding for the CDFI Fund). Of this total, a minimum of $161.5 million must be used for financial and technical assistance grants, of which a minimum of $15.5 minimum must be used for technical assistance and other purposes for Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native communities. (NCAI requested $20 million for the CDFI Fund's Native American CDFI Assistance (NACA) Program in its Fiscal Year 2018 Indian Country Budget Request (see p. 84).)

Economic Development Administration & Minority Business Development Agency – The bill increases funding for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) by $15 million over its FY 2016 level (an interesting development given that the current Administration's proposed "skinny budget" proposed to eliminate funding for EDA altogether). The bill also increases by $2 million federal support for the Minority Business Development Agency. In addition, at least 10 percent of the funding awarded must be directed to persistent poverty counties, a determination to be based on 2015 American Community Survey data.

National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities - The conference agreement provides $149.8 million each for the NEA and NEH to support arts and humanities programs, an increase of $1.9 million each above the enacted level. Institute of American Indian Arts - $3.5 million increase to provide forward funding for IAIA.

“With the president proposing the complete elimination of the national endowments for the arts and the humanities, I am particularly proud to have worked to secure an overall increase in funding for both the NEA and the NEH. This bill’s strong investment in the arts and humanities will help fuel these engines of job creation in New Mexico and across the country,” Udall said.

“I fought hard against Republican attempts to attach damaging policy riders onto this bill. I am proud to see that the final agreement blocks harmful provisions that would have eroded pillars of environmental health and safety, like the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and Clean Air Act. These anti-environment, poison-pill riders have no place in an appropriations bill,” Udall said.

Nixed were several objectionable Riders proposed by the Administration that threatened deep reductions in Indian Country and include: Language to overturn the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ tribal recognition process and language to block the Bureau of Land Management from improving environmental and safety standards for the use of hydraulic fracturing on Federal lands.

“I commend my fellow members of the Appropriations Committee and House and Senate leadership for their efforts to keep the government open for the American people. I look forward to further reviewing the details of this agreement in the coming days,” Udall said.

(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at executiveeditor@ nsweekly.com)

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