U.S. Senator Tina Smith Helps Introduce Legislation to Protect Tribal Programs In Minnesota, Across Nation From Future Funding Uncertainty

WASHINGTON, D.C. [01/25/19]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) helped introduce legislation to protect federal and tribal programs from budget uncertainty caused by government shutdowns and short-term funding packages.

Sen. Smith has heard concerns from tribal leaders in Minnesota as the current shutdown continues and a lack of federal funds puts critical programs at risk. The bill—called the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act (IPAAA) led by Senate Indian Affairs Committee Vice Chairman Tom Udall (D-N.M)—would authorize advance resources for programs and services within the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

Currently, critical federal programs at the Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Labor, and the Department of Veterans Affairs are authorized for advance appropriations. This process prevents funding lapses and other unintended consequences associated with short-term funding deals. The IPAAA will extend the certainty provided by advanced appropriations to critical tribal programs in the BIA and IHS.  

“Native communities are some of the hardest hit by this increasingly wasteful and harmful shutdown, jeopardizing the health and wellness of Native people in Minnesota and across the country,” said Sen. Smith. “The federal government is not living up to its trust responsibility when lapses in federal funding force tribes to suspend medical treatment and childcare, and the consequences of a shutdown on Indian Country last long after the government reopens. This bill would authorize funding one year in advance for critical programming in Indian Country, so tribal nations can have budget certainty for programs and services like health care, education, and law enforcement.”

This bill is supported by the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Health Board, the National Council on Urban Indian Health, the Self-Governance Communication and the Education Tribal Consortium.

Sen. Smith has continued to fight for stable sources of funding for those affected by the government shutdown. Last week, she introduced legislation to secure back pay for low- and mid-wage federal contractors affected by the shutdown. Contractors have not received back pay after previous shutdowns have ended.  

The IPAAA is being led by Indian Affairs Committee vice chair Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and is also supported by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). You can read full text of the legislation here.