Office of U.S. Representative Betty McCollum (DFL-MN-4)
U.S. Representatives Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) and Don Young (R-Alaska) have introduced the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act (IPAAA) 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, tribal justice services, and social services for children, families, and seniors. The legislation was developed in collaboration with tribal leaders, including the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), National Indian Health Board (NIHB), and the National Indian Education Association (NIEA).
A government shutdown means entire systems that serve the health care, education, and community safety needs of Native communities are interrupted or that workers must stay on the job without pay – making Indian Country disproportionately at risk of harm from delays in annual appropriations. Advance appropriations is a budgetary solution that would protect the services provided by these agencies from future shutdowns. Moving federal Indian programs including Bureau of Indian Affairs, BIE, and Indian Health Service 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’s inability to pass annual appropriations on time is a serious threat to the well-being of Native American communities,” Representative McCollum said. “We must act to ensure that the federal funding critical to maintaining life, health, and safety services throughout Indian Country will not be interrupted by another shutdown. Advance appropriations is a necessary step for making good on our federal trust and treaty commitments to our Native American brothers and sisters.”
“Alaska Native and American Indian communities have historically been shortchanged when it comes to receiving high-quality health care to meet their unique needs. The COVID-19 pandemic hit Native Americans especially hard, which makes providing certainty for health care funding even more important” said Representative Young. “The goal of our legislative efforts is simple: enable Congress to appropriate funding for the Indian Health Service (IHS), the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) one fiscal year in advance. Advance appropriations have already proven to be successful at the VA. Chronic appropriations delays, piecemeal funding bills, and government shutdowns have hampered the ability of Indian Health Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Bureau of Indian Education to deliver the health care and services our first peoples rely on. In the past few weeks, talk of a potential government shutdown once again caused unnecessary anxiety for Native communities across our country; very frankly, this is wrong. It is up to Congress to uphold the federal trust relationship with Native populations across the country, and I encourage my friends on both sides of the aisle to cosponsor this important legislation. I am grateful to my friend, Congresswoman Betty McCollum, for her continued partnership in this important cause.”
Companion legislation has been introduced by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) in the U.S. Senate.
“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 Bureau of Indian Education to adequately address the education needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The National Indian Education Association 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.
In addition to McCollum and Young, the legislation is co-sponsored by Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), and Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.).
In addition to Heinrich and Luján, the Senate companion 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.).
The Indian Health Service (IHS), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for providing federal health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), an agency within the Department of the Interior, maintains government-to-government relationships with Indian tribes, and facilitates support for tribal people and tribal governments.
The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), an agency within the Department of the Interior, is responsible for providing quality education opportunities for students at 183 elementary and secondary schools located on 64 reservations and 26 tribal colleges and universities across the U.S.