Appropriations Provide Mixed Support for Native Programs

Feb 3, 2014

Appropriations – Finishing the Job for 2014

Congress passed an Omnibus Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014 (FY14) just in time to meet its January 15 deadline. The “budget deal,” which was crafted by House and Senate appropriations leadership and by-passed the normal process of consultation, allocates monies that would normally be considered in twelve separate pieces of legislation. The final omnibus included versions of subcommittee bills that either one or both chambers of Congress passed in 2013. The negotiations that affected these subcommittee bills were not shared until Congress made the final bill public in January.

How did it turn out for Native American programs?

For Indian country, most accounts received more support than they would have received under the sequester—the spending cuts required by legislation passed in August 2011—that was looming over all 2014 appropriations. The total combined amount allocated for programs handled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) increased by $96 million. There are increases and decreases spread among those programs, however, as well as in other appropriations measures that affect Native Americans.

Here are some examples*:

Education

Education program funding increased $2.4 million from last year’s appropriations. The Omnibus provides funds for school construction, funds the restoration of some early childhood programs and allocates about $15 million to expand Indian Head Start programs. For K-12 and college education, Indian programs received approximately the same funding as in FY 2013, except for Impact Aid, which received a $65 million increase. Tribal college funding, which comes through the Agriculture Department, remained largely the same as FY2013.

Jobs and Training

Within the Department of Labor, programs related to the Indian and Native American Workforce Investment Act received about $46 million for the fiscal year, which is less funding than the previous two years. The Department’s Youth Activities program was cut by about $9 million, to a level less than FY2013 or FY2012 funding.

Housing and Development

Native American housing and development programs will receive about the same funding as last year. In FY2013, however, the Native American Housing Block Grant was cut by $40 million and the Indian Community Development Block Grant was cut by $5 million; funding affected by those cuts was not restored. Rural Housing and Community Facilities, provided through the Agriculture Department, received an increase of $174 million. Grants for distance learning and telemedicine increased by about $372 million over FY2013 funding.

Nutrition

The Omnibus increased funding for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations by $4 million.  The program functions similarly to food banks and Meals on Wheels. Funding for the nutrition education program increasedby  nearly $ 1 million. FY 2014 allocations for the WIC program (Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children) increased as a whole, which will assist Native American mothers, children and others. However, all of the modest increases this year are likely to be overshadowed by impending cuts in the food stamp program (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, SNAP). The Farm Bill that Congress passed on January 28 authorizes $9 billion less for the SNAP program in the coming year.

Health Care

Funding for the Indian Health Service (IHS) increased by $78 million. Funds for restoration of contract support costs were not explicitly included. A long note in the report language accompanying the bill explains that, while appropriators agree that contract supports costs are included in the agreement, the bill does not include a dollar limit on the amount available for covering the costs in any particular year. Furthermore, the bill does not include the Administration’s proposal to cap the amount available for each tribal contract. The bill instructs the administrative agencies involved, primarily the Interior for the BIA and Health and Human Services for HIS, to resolve the amounts legally owed to tribes and to regularize the process of paying adequate support costs in the future. The note also acknowledges that, since these funds must come out of appropriations, the amounts paid for contract support costs “have the potential to impact all other programs funded under the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, including other equally important tribal programs.”

Next Year, Coming Right Up!

Congress is beginning work on FY 2015 allocations immediately. On January 29, the National Congress of American Indians published the “Fiscal Year 2015 Indian Country Budget Request: An Honorable Budget for Indian Country,” its request for the next round of budgeting.

* Appreciation to the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) for background on the impact of the Omnibus in Indian Country.

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