FY 2017 Proposed Budget increases funding for Tribal communities
February 19, 2016
Thomas R. Throssell
At the White House Tribal Nations Conference in 2015, President Obama stated that the United States and Indian Country could build a better future together, and with the release of his Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 proposed budget, it appears that is exactly his intention before leaving office.
According to a U.S. Department of Interior and Indian Health Services news releases, President Obama’s FY 2017 budget for Indian Affairs, which includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education, requested $2.9 billion, an overall increase of $137.6 million from last year’s budget. Additionally, the budget proposal requested $6.6 billion for the Indian Health Services, a $402 million increase from last year’s budget.
The increase in funds is in an effort by the Obama Administration to fully meet the U.S.’s responsibility to all 567 federally recognized tribes. Part of that endeavor is to foster tribal self-determination and governance by generating opportunities for Native youth, supporting Native families and communities, tribal nation-building, preparing tribal communities for climate change, and resolving tribal water rights claims.
“President Obama’s [FY] 2017 budget request for Indian Affairs embodies his belief that a federal budget that addresses trust and treaty responsibilities with comprehensive, coordinated federal resources promotes strong, resilient tribal nations,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Lawrence S. Roberts. “I’m very pleased this budget continues the President’s long-standing commitment to our Nation-to-Nation relationship and to our mission of promoting tribal sovereignty for the prosperity of future generations.”
Out of the total $2.9 billion being requested for Indian Affairs, $1.1 billion of that investment is being sought for the BIE, which is in support of that bureau’s multi-year transformation. The report stated that the transformation will help:
- Improve opportunities and outcomes in the classroom;
- Expand multi-generational programs to advance early childhood development;
- Provide improved educational instructional services and teacher quality;
- Promote enhanced language and culture programs;
- Enhance broadband and digital access; and
- Support tribal control of student education.
The news release stated that because of disproportionate rates of poverty and lack of access to services that tribal communities frequently experience, the proposed budget includes $21 million for the BIA to support the growth of the Tiwahe initiative.
Tiwahe, meaning family in Lakota, is an initiative that promotes support to tribal communities, family stability, and child welfare by increasing funds for public safety, human services, court, and job training programs.
The news release said that included in the budget request is $17.4 million over FY 2016 for BIA Human Services programs, with increases of:
- $12.3 million for Social Services to provide more services to tribes and tribal organizations within their Social Services programs;
- $3.4 million for Indian Child Welfare Act programs to maintain placement of children within their tribal community;
- $1.7 million to improve access to suitable housing for Indian families with children.
Budget Supports Improvements for IHS
The Obama Administration has increased funding to IHS by 53 percent since 2008, and the FY 2017 budget request is 6.5 percent more than last year’s. According to an IHS news release, the increased funding is to address the health disparity between Natives in comparison with other Americans and improve quality of care within tribal communities.
Robert G. McSwain, IHS principal deputy director, said in the release, “This budget accurately reflects the challenges the Indian health system faces in providing comprehensive health care and public health service in some of the most remote parts of our country. As IHS responds to improving quality of care – from new requirements for health information technology to the federal government’s commitment to honor the sovereign right of tribes by fully funding Contract Support Costs – these resources are necessary to raise the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.”
The requested budget includes $363 million for behavioral health services and includes:
- $15 million for the Generation Indigenous program for Native youth.
- $4 million to implement Zero Suicide, a strategy to reduce/eliminate suicide in ten pilot projects.
- $2 million to pilot aftercare services at Youth Regional Treatment Centers.
- $21 million to support integration of behavioral health with primary care services.
- $4 million increase for the Domestic Violence Prevention Program.
Additionally, the proposed budget intends to fully fund Contract Support Costs at $800 million, $570 million for facilities and environmental health programs including $103 million for sanitation facilities, $932 million for the Purchased/Referred Care program, and $20 million more to upgrade health Information Technology systems.
“I’ve often acknowledged the painful history, the broken promises that are part of our past,” said President Obama at the 2015 White House Tribal Nations Conference. “And I’ve said that while we couldn’t change the past, working together, nation-to-nation, we could build a better future. I believed this not only because America has a moral obligation to do right by the tribes and treaty obligations, but because the success of our tribal communities is tied up with the success of America as a whole.”