Dante Desiderio, the executive director of the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA), testified in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs last Thursday about the impacts that uncertainty and structural barriers currently have on tribal economies. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), chair of the Committee, and Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), ranking member of the Committee, remarked on the importance that Congress act now.
Senator Johnson, in his opening remarks summarized the impacts of these impediments, saying, “The Committee will examine what challenges continue to hinder economic growth in Indian Country, including the lack of access to capital, small business lending, financial education, and support for start-up businesses. With unemployment rates reaching an astonishing 80 percent in some areas of Indian Country, we must do better to address the problems that cause this persistent cycle of unemployment.”
Senator Shelby elaborated on the importance of removing burdensome rules. During the hearing, he said, “The patchwork of legal rules and regulations has discouraged business activity on reservations, especially by financial institutions... These legal and regulatory obstacles have long hampered economic development.”
NAFOA, in its testimony, stressed the need for this Congress to move forward on three key issues that will help to first and foremost attract much-needed capital, and second, make a serious attempt to identify and remove other barriers, including taking a hard look at the impacts of recent court decisions like Carcieri v. Salazar and at regulations such as existing leasing, land, and legal impediments.
Mr. Desiderio said that it is time for Congress “to support programs that work and clarify language in laws and regulations that don’t.” He added, “It is frustrating enough for Native people to deal with the impacts of an economic downturn. But, as we have seen in the past, it is even more frustrating to see the rest of the country recover without us.”
Visit this link to view the hearing webcast.
Visit this link for NAFOA written testimony.