NALU: January 26, 2011: Tribal Energy Projects, Unemployment Disparities, and Budget Cuts
In this update:
- Department of Energy Announces New Tribal Energy Initiatives
- Federal Spending Cuts Will Impede Progressive Programs in Indian Country
- Jefferson Keel Will Deliver State of Indian Nations Address This Thursday
- Report Finds Large Disparities in Unemployment Rates between Native Americans and Whites
- United Nations Investigates Violence Against Women in Cherokee Tribe
Last week, the Department of Energy announced two initiatives promoting clean energy in Indian Country. The first initiative is a $10 million grant to the DOE's Tribal Energy Program to fund new clean energy projects in Native American communities. Indian tribes, tribal energy resource development organizations and tribal consortia are eligible to apply for funding, which will be used for evaluation, development and operation of energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu states, "Tribal Nations are well-positioned to take advantage of the benefits of clean energy. These efforts will help Tribal Nations determine the best projects for their lands and ultimately which technologies to adopt, both improving the environment and supporting long-term clean energy jobs."
Programs that enable Native American communities to start new clean energy projects not only positively address our shared environmental challenges, but also create jobs, promote economic development and empower those communities.
The other initiative that was announced was the Department of Energy's Tribal Summit with American Indian and Alaska Native leaders, which will be held on May 5th. The DOE will be working closely with AIAN leaders to design the summit.
Congress has a lot of spending decisions to make in a very short time.
First, before March 4, the House and Senate have to agree on what to do for the rest of FY2011 (which ends on September 30th this year). So far, the government is operating on a "continuing resolution" which continues 2010 funding levels. Will Congress agree to just continue that level for the rest of the fiscal year? Or will the new House leadership take this opportunity to exact deep cuts (more than 20%) in domestic programs? Yesterday, President Obama proposed a 5-year freeze at 2010 levels in order to reduce the federal debt.
Needless to say, Native American programs stand to lose under all of these plans - even the most generous. While Native American programs made some gains in funding (especially in health care) in 2010, even the biggest gains weren't enough to match the needs in Indian country. A five-year freeze at 2010 levels means no additional federal resources to support progress on housing, education, energy, health care, law enforcement, violence prevention, drug and alcohol abuse prevention and treatment - a whole spectrum of programs.
After they decide on the more immediate spending levels, Congress will have to deal with two other big questions: how to allocate fund for Fiscal Year 2012 (which will begin October 1, 2011), and what to do when the federal debt ceiling has to be raised. Stay tuned to further Native American Legislative Updates for more on these issues. In the meantime, make sure that your representative knows the real impact of federal spending on real lives. If you work with or benefit from one of the programs that is important to Indian Country, write to your representative today. Use our website for more information and to send the letter.
The President of the National Congress of American Indians, Jefferson Keel, will make the annual State of Indian Nations address this Thursday, January 27th, at 10:30am in Washington D.C. Keel, Lt. Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, will outline key priorities for the federal government to consider this coming year and discuss current issues in Indian Country. Following the speech, Senator Lisa Murkowski will deliver a congressional response.
Watch the speech live on the website of the National Congress of American Indians.
The Economic Policy Institute released a report on the impact of the recession on Native Americans. Analyzing regional and national data for American Indians, including Alaska Natives, and whites, the results show that over the last three years, the Native American unemployment rate increased 7.7 percentage points, which was1.6 times greater than the increase in unemployment for whites. The current unemployment rate for Native Americans is 15.2%, and the national rate is 9.3%
In some regions, the unemployment rate was extremely high for Native Americans, and very low for whites. For example, in Alaska, the rate of unemployment for whites was 6.9%, and 21.3% for native people. The study was also careful to recognize that the unemployment rate only measures people who are actively looking for work, and doesn't include people who have stopped looking for work. For Native Americans in the Northern Plains - an area with one of the lowest unemployment rate for whites - the regional unemployment rate is the second highest in the country, but the employment rate is the lowest in the country at 44%. This suggests that even more Native Americans are out of work than the unemployment rate implies!
Rashida Manjoo, a U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, will visit the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians this week in Cherokee, North Carolina, to investigate causes and characteristics of the high incidence of violence against Native women. She will meet with the police department, hospital, women's center, and tribal courts, and her findings will be presented to the U.N. and the United States with recommendations on how to better protect women's rights. One third of Native women are survivors of rape, and 75% of Native women are physically assaulted, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.