Senators Heinrich And Luján Introduce Legislation To Fund Critical Public Services For Tribal Nations

U.S. SENATE News:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) introduced the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act (IPAAA) of 2021 to provide advance appropriations and avoid lapses in funding for the Indian Health Service (IHS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), which fund critical public services for Tribal Nations, including hospitals, schools, law enforcement, child welfare programs and other services.

The legislation is led by Luján in the U.S. Senate and U.S. Representatives Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Don Young (R-Alaska) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Indian programs have received full-year appropriations by the start of the fiscal year only once in over two decades. As a consequence, activities generally have been funded for a portion of each year under a continuing resolution (CR). Receiving its funding under a CR has limited the activities that federal agencies serving Native Americans can undertake, in part because they can only expend funds for the duration of a CR, which prohibits agencies from making longer-term and cost-saving measures. 

Advance appropriations is a budgetary solution that would protect the services provided by these agencies from future lapses in appropriations and ensure they do not count against spending caps. Moving federal Indian programs including BIA, BIE, and IHS to the advance appropriations process will protect these agencies and Tribal governments from cash flow problems that regularly occur due to delays in the enactment of annual appropriations legislation.

“The federal government has a trust responsibility and treaty obligation to fully and reliably fund critical services for Tribal Nations,” said Heinrich, member on the Senate Committee on Appropriations. “We should never allow potential government shutdowns or budget uncertainty to threaten essential services like health care, education, or law enforcement. I’m proud to introduce this legislation alongside Senator Luján and will continue working to provide the necessary funding and resources for Indian Country.”

“Our budget is a reflection of our values, and that must include robust and reliable funding for programs that serve Tribal Nations. This legislation is an important step to responsibly fund these programs and protect the health, safety, and education of those served by these agencies,” said Luján, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “I was proud to lead the introduction of this legislation to honor our promises to Tribal governments and communities, and I look forward to building support for this critical bill.”  

“Disruptions in federal funding due to shutdowns and Continuing Resolutions have an outsized impact on Tribal Nations and their communities. Advance appropriations for Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service accounts will provide needed certainty and security. The advanced funding will ensure that essential services such as healthcare and public safety will not cease to operate due to political impasse in Washington D.C. This bill makes fiscal sense for all and promotes restoration of the federal promises made to Tribal Nations,” said National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Fawn Sharp.

“The National Indian Health Board supports Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act and applauds Senator Lujan of New Mexico for working with Tribes to secure stability in Tribal healthcare funding, a critical step toward fulfilling the United States’ trust responsibility to Tribal Nations. The bill will authorize advance appropriations for Indian healthcare, a top priority for Indian Country, and require more transparency from the Indian Health Service. NIHB looks forward to continuing to work with Senator Luján to ensure this legislation enhances Indian healthcare funding for future generations,” said Chief William Smith, National Indian Health Board (NIHB) Board of Directors Chair and Alaska Area Representative.

“Adopting advance appropriations for the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) would result in the ability for school administrators to continue school operations without wondering if –or when– they would have the necessary funding. Chronic delays in passing the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies budget each year make it very difficult for tribal educators and the BIE to adequately address the education needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives. NIEA is pleased to endorse Senator Luján’s bill which would require the Secretary of the Interior to consult with tribes as they develop their annual budget request to Congress,” said National Indian Education Association (NIEA) Executive Director Diana Cournoyer, Oglala Sioux Tribe. 

“Too often essential programs that form the foundation of fulfilling the trust and treaty responsibilities of the Federal government are subject to uncertainty and costly delays because of continuing resolutions and government shutdowns. Advance appropriations would show that Congress takes its commitment to Indian Country seriously,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

In addition to Heinrich and Luján, the legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.). 

A summary of the legislation is available HERE. Full text of the legislation is available HERE.

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