Udall, Senate Democrats Introduce Bill to Protect Essential Federal and Tribal Programs from Future Budget Uncertainty
Legislation would authorize advance funding for federally-operated tribal programs related to health and public safety
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, along with U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act (IPAAA) to protect essential federal and tribal programs from the detrimental impacts of budgetary uncertainty caused by government shutdowns and short-term funding packages.
The IPAAA would authorize advance appropriations for Indian Health Service (IHS) programs, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) programs, and contract support costs for Tribes that opt to take-over operation of IHS and BIA.
Since the partial government shutdown began in December, the lapse in appropriations has hampered critical public safety, child welfare, and health care programs at BIA and IHS. Additionally, Tribes that have taken over operation of BIA and IHS services under “638” contracts and self-governance compacts are quickly exhausting reserve funding to cover the operating costs of essential federal programs, pushing some Tribes to the financial brink and endangering lives in the process.
Currently, critical federal programs at the Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Labor, and the Department of Veterans Affairs are authorized for advance appropriations. This process prevents funding lapses and other unintended consequences associated with short-term funding deals from disrupting critical services provided by the federal government. The IPAAA will extend the certainty provided by advanced appropriations to similarly-vital tribal programs in the BIA and IHS.
“Because of the unique government-to-government relationship between Tribes and the United States, Native communities in New Mexico and across the country are among those hit the hardest when the appropriations process is hijacked for political leverage, as is the case in this shutdown,” Udall said. “The Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act will offer certainty to Tribes and federal law enforcement, health care, and child welfare services employees working in Indian Country. I am proud to lead this effort with my colleagues to make sure the budget process meets our federal trust and treaty obligations going forward.”
“It is not a choice, our country must uphold its treaty and trust responsibilities to all Native Americans,” Tester said. “This bill will ensure tribes have long-term budget certainty and no longer suffer negative consequences as a result of political infighting in Washington, DC.”
“Native American communities rely on federal funding to operate their health care clinics and child care centers, support public safety initiatives and provide food and housing assistance to families,” Cortez Masto said . “It’s unacceptable given our trust relationship with tribal governments that the health and safety of those living in Indian Country is subject to partisan politics in Washington. I’m proud to cosponsor this bill, which will ensure that our Native American communities aren’t left without vital services during a government shutdown.”
“Native communities are some of the hardest hit by this increasingly wasteful and harmful shutdown, jeopardizing the health and wellness of Native people in Minnesota and across the country,” Smith said. “The federal government is not living up to its trust responsibility when lapses in federal funding force tribes to suspend medical treatment and childcare, and the consequences of a shutdown on Indian Country last long after the government reopens. This bill would authorize funding one year in advance for critical programming in Indian Country, so tribal nations can have budget certainty for programs and services like health care, education, and law enforcement.”
“Our tribal nations in Indian Country have been disproportionately hurt by the ongoing federal shutdown and are now under great distress to meet many basic needs for their communities. This funding and these critical services should be above political battles in Washington and should never be allowed to lapse,” Heinrich said. “We have a trust obligation under federal treaty rights to guarantee tribes have funding for health care, housing, and other essential infrastructure. This legislation will help us better meet that obligation.”
“The shutdown has hurt many Americans, but it is taking an especially severe toll on Native communities, whose health care and other services depend on the federal government upholding its trust and treaty responsibilities,” Warren said. “This legislation will provide more certainty to Indian Country and help insulate crucial federal programs—like those provided by the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs—from future shutdowns.”
The legislation is supported by the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Health Board, the National Council on Urban Indian Health, the Self-Governance Communication and Education Tribal Consortium, and the United South and Eastern Tribes
“This shutdown is a violation of the federal government’s treaty and trust obligations to provide health care, education, and other services to tribal nations,” said Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians. “We thank Vice-Chairman Udall for introducing the Indian Programs Advanced Appropriations Act, which would help prevent future budget fights from undermining the health and safety of tribal communities.”
“The National Indian Health Board is pleased to support the Indian Programs Advanced Appropriations Act,” said Victoria Kitcheyan, Acting Chairperson of the National Indian Health Board. “The current government shutdown is destabilizing Native health delivery and health care provider access; as well as destabilizing Tribal Governments, families, children and individuals. Funding for the Indian health system is a result of Treaties and other legal obligations made by the federal government with Indian Country and should not be held hostage each year by unrelated political battles. Advance Appropriations for IHS will help the federal government meet its trust obligation to Tribal governments, and protect the lives of American Indians and Alaska Natives. We thank Senator Udall for introducing this important legislation.”
“The passing of this bill will be a critical measure in fulfilling the Federal government’s trust obligation to American Indian and Alaska Native people,said Maureen Rosette, President of the National Council on Urban Indian Health. “We are grateful to Senator Udall and the IPAA sponsors for championing this longstanding issue in an attempt to create true equality for AI/ANs that receive health care services through all three prongs – IHS, Tribal, and Urban – of the Indian Health system.”
“The effects of the current lapse in appropriations, as well as prior lapses and delays in the enactment of the budget, have exacerbated challenges in the administration of programs that serve Tribal Nations and their citizens and placed the health and safety of our people and communities at risk,” said Ron Allen, Chairman of the Self-Governance Education and Communication Tribal Consortium. “The effects of this shutdown illustrate why we need Congress to pass the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act and ensure Indian country is not harmed in future political battles that hold critical services and resources as ransom.”
“The federal government shutdown, in addition to the recently released USCCR Broken Promises report, again highlights the negative impacts that inadequate federal funding has across Tribal Nation communities. Unfortunately, the federal budget approach fails to fulfill trust and treaty obligations in a manner that honors and respects the sacred promises made to America’s first peoples,” said Kirk Francis, President of the United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund. “The USET Sovereignty Protection Fund has long advocated for a comprehensive Indian Country budget approach that includes full funding of obligations, mandatory funding, expanded contracting and compacting, and advanced appropriations. We strongly support and applaud the introduction of the Indian Programs Advanced Appropriations Act (IPAAA) by Senator Tom Udall and we encourage all SCIA members to support this bill and offer the broad Congressional leadership necessary to ensure its swift passage.”