December 19, 2019

Udall: Funding Package Makes Strong Investments in Indian Country Priorities

Rejects Trump administration’s harmful cuts and includes critical funding for Tribal cultural programs, MMIW crisis, and BIA and IHS staffing

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, applauded the bipartisan vote to pass two Fiscal Year 2020 funding package bills that included critical investments and provisions for Indian Tribes and Native communities.  In addition to increased funding for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), and Indian Health Service (IHS) programs, the bills contain provisions to protect Tribal cultural patrimony, improve the federal response to the Missing and Murdered Indian Women (MMIW) crisis, and address BIA and IHS staffing shortages.

“This spending package reflects a strong commitment from Congress to Indian Country, by providing funding for Indian programs well over the proposed cuts outlined in the President’s budget,” said Udall.  “I’m proud to have worked to secure critical resources for health and education programs Native communities rely on, as well as provisions that will safeguard Tribal cultural patrimony and address the urgent MMIW crisis. As vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, I understand the importance of meeting our trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal governments, and will continue to fight for the critical resources necessary to meet those obligations.”

Highlights for Indian Country include:

Indian Health Service—The Interior, Environmental, and Related Agencies portion of the funding agreement provides $6.047 billion for the Indian Health Service, $243 million more than fiscal year 2019 and $138 million more than the president’s budget request.  Within that amount, the bill includes a total of $125 million, $89 million more than fiscal year 2019, to meet court-ordered requirements for Tribal lease operating costs owed to Tribes.  The bill continues $10 million in funding for a Special Behavioral Health grant pilot program to address opioid abuse and other substance abuse and mental health challenges; $58 million for Urban Indian programs, an increase of $6 million above the fiscal year 2019 level; $11 million to fund requirements for newly recognized Tribes; and $8 million to begin work on a new electronic health records system for the Service. 

Bureau of Indian Affairs & Bureau of Indian Education—The Interior, Environmental, and Related Agencies portion of the funding agreement collectively funds the BIA and BIE at $3.223 billion, an increase of $142 million from the Fiscal Year 2019 level.  It also accepts a budget request to separate BIA and BIE into two separate bureaus, provides $415 million for core K-12 education programs, an increase of  $11 million compared to fiscal year 2019; provides $106 million for post-secondary programs, a 5 percent increase; boosts Johnson O’Malley grant funds by $5 million for a total of $20 million; and includes $4 million for native language education programs at BIE schools, an increase of $2 million above fiscal year 2019.  Compared to fiscal year 2019, the bill also increases funding for school construction by nearly 10 percent, or $10 million, for a total of $115 million. 

Tribal Cultural Resources and Protections—The funding agreement includes—

- $22.3 million to support Native American language grant programs, including the Udall-championed Esther Martinez immersion grant program, at the Departments of Education, the Interior, and Health and Human Services;

- $3.5 million in additional funding for enforcement of federal laws prohibiting the trafficking of counterfeit Native American art; and

- $1 million to fund a Tribal cultural impacts study of the greater Chacoan region, a survey that that will explore the vast cultural resources that we know exist outside of the Park and in the broader Chacoan region

MMIW and Violence Against Native Women—The spending package provides funding to help Indian Tribes support survivors, prosecute abusers, and address violence against Native women, including: 

- $9.9 million for IHS to undertake domestic violence prevention efforts;

- $3 million for BIA’s Office of Justice Services (OJS) to investigate MMIW cold cases and conduct officer MMIW response training;

- $7 million for the Departments of the Interior and Justice to support Tribal courts’ implementation of Violence Against Women Act special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction;

- A five percent Tribal set-aside within the Crime Victims Fund to support Tribal victim service programs;

- A directive for the Department of Justice to improve law enforcement coordination and resource sharing with BIA;

- A directive for the Government Accountability Office to review BIA’s MMIW response policies; and

- A requirement for BIA’s OJS to appoint a liaison responsible for developing MMIW data collection guideless in consultation with Indian Tribes.

BIA and IHS Staffing—The funding agreement provides additional resources to ensure IHS and BIA can recruit and retain staff for operation of essential public services in Indian Country,  including:

- $84 million in new funds to cover staffing needs at recently constructed IHS facilities.

- $7.9 million in new funding for the IHS Indian Health Professions program to improve for recruitment and retention of medical professionals at IHS, which the Government Accountability Office recently indicated had health care provider vacancy levels of 25 percent or more; 

- $5 million to initiate a Community Health Aide Program in the Lower 48 States, modeled on a successful program in Alaska; while maintaining full funding for the community health representatives program that the President targeted for steep reductions;

- $2 million to hire additional BIA detention & corrections staff;

- $1 million for BIA background checks to facilitate more efficient hiring of qualified law enforcement officers at the BIA’s OJS; and

- A directive for BIA to conduct a review of its staffing and vacancy levels and issue a report to Congress.

Contract Support Costs

- The agreement continues an indefinite appropriation for IHS and BIA to fully fund all legal obligations to pay contract support cost requirements.