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October 2013 Policy Update

October 10, 2013

With so much happening in Washington D.C. in the past 30 days, this policy update is focusing directly on these issues.  The information contained in this month’s policy update is via the National Congress of American Indians; they are on the front lines representing tribes and tribal interests in Washington D.C. Please note, some of the website links may not work; they are not broken, but the Federal government is shutting down some sites during the government shutdown. More information here.  On an October 1, 2013, NCAI issued a statement urging congress to reach a long-term budget deal that meets the nation’s obligations to tribal nations.

The Government Shutdown:
And we thought sequester would be detrimental to Indian Country, look at what the Government Shutdown is doing.  According to National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), tribes face three financial crises including the shutdown, Sequester effects, and the upcoming federal debt ceiling issue.  It is hoped, for Indian Country’s sake, that Sequestration is stopped during the debt ceiling talks when a budget agreement could be made. For a refresher on the effects of Sequestration in Indian Country click here.

NCAI has provided a summary of Government Shutdown Contingency Plans and their effects on Indian Country. Their analysis is provided below.

Department of Health and Human Services

  • Indian Health Service (IHS) – IHS would continue to provide direct clinical health care services as well as referrals for contracted services that cannot be provided through IHS clinics.
  • Administration for Children and Families (ACF) – ACF would continue mandatory funded programs including the Federal Parent Locator Service, Personal Responsibility Education, and Health Profession Opportunity Grants. Child support and foster care services will also continue because they receive advanced appropriations in the FY 2013 appropriation process. All permissible activities for the Unaccompanied Alien Children program under an exception of preserving human life will continue.

Activities that WOULD NOT continue

  • IHS would be unable to provide funding to Tribes and Urban Indian health programs, and would not perform national policy development and issuance, oversight, and other functions, except those necessary to meet the immediate needs of the patients, medical staff, and medical facilities.
  • ACF would not continue quarterly formula grants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Child Care, Social Services Block Grant, Refugee Programs, Child Welfare Services and the Community Service Block Grant programs. Additionally new discretionary grants, including Head Start and social services programs, would not be made.

Department of Interior
Out of a total of 8,143 employees in the office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, BIA, and BIE, 2,860 will be furloughed.Bureau of Indian Affairs
With a potential shutdown on October 1, 2013, the BIA will be required to administratively furlough all employees unless they are covered in an Excepted or Exempted positions. The BIA will also discontinue most of its services to tribes which will impact most programs and activities.Services and programs that will remain operational.

  • Law enforcement and operation of detention centers.
  • Social Services to protect children and adults.
  • Irrigation and Power – delivery of water and power.
  • Firefighting and response to emergency situations.

Services and programs that would be ceased.

  • Management and protection of trust assets such as lease compliance and real estate transactions.
  • Federal oversight on environmental assessments, archeological clearances, and endangered species compliance.
  • Management of oil and gas leasing and compliance.
  • Timber Harvest and other Natural Resource Management operations.
  • Tribal government related activities.
  • Payment of financial assistance to needy individuals, and to vendors providing foster care and residential care for children and adults.
  • Disbursement of tribal funds for tribal operations including responding to tribal government request.

Bureau of Indian Education

Funding for school operations is forward funded. Bureau of Indian Education funds are also available to sustain operations throughout the 2013-2014 School Year. The Department of Education has provided funds for the period July 01, 2013 through June 30, 2014. These funds and BIE funds will be used to maintain operations of education programs during a lapse of appropriations.

Services that will remain operational:

  • All BIE funded schools, including Haskell Indian Nations University and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, will remain open.
  • BIE will maintain staff required to provide a safe and secure environment for students in all schools.
  • BIE will ensure all resources and capabilities to support school operations, facilities and communications infrastructure are in place.
  • Transportation and maintenance of schools will continue.
  • Contracted schools operations are forward funded and will remain open.

Housing and Urban Development

  • Indian Housing Block Grant and Indian Community Development Block Grant recipients will still have access to their money but grantees who haven’t returned their signed grant agreements will not have access. TA and training requests approved before today may still happen.
  • Only excepted staff in the Office of Public and Indian Housing and the Office of Native American Programs will be available to respond to emergency issues. There will be no staff to answer non-emergency questions. The contact information for PIH emergency operations during the government shutdown will be posted on the HUD website.
  • In the event of a government shutdown, all meetings and appearances related to non-excepted activities would be cancelled.
  • No travel for the purposes of monitoring or technical assistance will take place during the government shutdown unless it is for emergency purposes.

US Department of Agriculture

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will continue operations and eligible households will still receive monthly benefits for October. The authority to make October benefit payments comes from the Recovery Act, through which Congress provided “such sums as are necessary” to finance the SNAP benefit provided for in the Recovery Act. In addition, about $2 billion in contingency funding will be available and could be used to support State Administrative activities essential to continue the program and issue and process benefits. These contingency funds were provided in the FY 2013 appropriation and do not expire until the end of FY 2014.
  • No additional federal funds would be available to support the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)’s clinical services, food benefits and administrative costs. States may have some funds available from infant formula rebates or other sources, including spend forward authority, to continue operations for a week or so, but States would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period. Contingency funds will be available to help States – but even this funding would not fully mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October.
  • Similarly, no new funds will be available to support the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). While there would be some inventory available for use in food packages, no carryover, contingency or other funds would be available to support continued operations.

Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

  • The Employment & Training Administration within the Department of Labor will cease operations – including the office administering the Native American Workforce Investment Act Program – except for: unemployment insurance; the operations of Job Corps centers through November 1, 2013; and the electronic systems needed to process Job Corps, National Emergency Grants for FEMA declared disasters, or other items.

Department of Education

  • 90 percent of employees in the Department of Education will be furloughed.
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title I and II and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B State Grants, and Career and Technical Education funds are already appropriated under advance appropriations formula grants to states.
  • A protracted delay in Department obligations and payments beyond one week would severely curtail the cash flow to school districts, colleges and universities, and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on the Department’s funds to support their services. For example, many school districts receive more than 20 percent of their funds from Department-funded programs. Colleges rely on Higher Education funds to pay ongoing expenses of staff running programs for disadvantaged students seeking to enter and stay in college. Vocational rehabilitation agencies receive 80 percent of the cost of providing services to adult individuals with disabilities from the Department’s program.
  • Under a shutdown, the likely disruption to Department grant programs will be a potential delay in activities necessary to make competitive and formula grant awards later in the year. For the most part, these employees will be furloughed. In addition, citizens and institutions seeking specific information regarding the impact of a shutdown will have limited access to information.

Many other programs that serve Indian Country may not be included in this short broadcast, but details may be found on the contingency plan website, or at specific agency websites.Unity Day Update:

Hosted by NCAI, Tribal Unity Impact Days kicked off in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing room with over 130 attendees participating in the tribal briefing. Tribal leaders heard from Senators Begich (AK), Heitkamp (ND), and Tester (MT) and Representatives Becerra (CA), Cole (OK), McCollum (MN), Pearce (NM), and Ruiz (CA). Many Members thanked tribal leaders for their dedication in traveling to the nation’s capital to share how policy decisions are affecting tribal communities, especially impacts of sequestration on health, education, public safety, and other tribal governmental services. Representatives Cole and McCollum emphasized their support for protecting tribal treaty obligations from indiscriminate reductions.NCAI and its partners also sought broad support from Congress to assist in providing more fair treatment for tribal governments under the tax code.  The Internal Revenue Code has included Indian tribes in a piecemeal fashion, which chooses when and where to acknowledge tribes’ taxing authority.  Several tribal tax bills have been introduced during the 113th Congress:  H.R. 2332; H.R. 3030; and H.R. 3042.  Each of these bills is the result of effective outreach from tribal leadership on key tax issues affecting tribal self-governance.  Tribal leaders asked Members to co-sponsor in the House, and encouraged Senators to introduce companion bills in the Senate.Tribes also urged Congress to reject the language similar to the Administration’s proposal to unfairly limit payment of contract support costs in the Continuing Resolution. If adopted by Congress, the provisions would set back Indian self-determination and self-governance decades. They would also undo four recent Supreme Court decisions confirming the United States’ obligation to pay the full amount of Contract Support Costs owed to Indian Tribes, by denying Tribes the right to recover damages under the Contract Disputes Act when full CSC payment is not made.Everyone was in agreement on the importance of protecting Indian land.  President Keel ended his speech with “As our ancestors before us, we must rally to the defense of our land.  We must fight for the land rights of all Tribes, including the overturning of Carcieriwith the Carcieri fix, and the advancement of the Patchak Patch. Only together can we protect our lands.”

PARTNERSHIP FOR TRIBAL GOVERNANCE | Funding available for tribal governance projects, applications due Oct. 23, 2013

NCAI has funding available for investments in tribal governance projects as part of our Partnership for Tribal Governance. Please see the letter from NCAI Executive Director Jackie Pata to tribal leaders for more information.

Application letters are due by Oct. 23, 2013.

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