Budget Deal Secured by Tester Includes Big Wins for Indian Country
Senator Helped Craft Legislation to Avert Another Government Shutdown and Fund Native Priorities
(U.S. Senate) - U.S. Senator Jon Tester delivered big wins for Indian Country in the budget deal he helped craft and pass last week to fund the Interior Department and avert another government shutdown. These wins include resources to address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis, support Native American veterans, invest in tribal law enforcement initiatives, and strengthen the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-among others.
"The deal we struck not only prevents another devastating government shutdown, but upholds our trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Country," Tester said. "I will continue fighting to make sure tribal governments have access to the health care, education, and law enforcement resources they need to move Native American communities forward."
While much of the debate about the government funding legislation centered around border security, Tester-a longtime member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and one of seven Senators tasked with negotiating a budget deal to prevent another partial government shutdown-also helped craft six bills to fund the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Commerce, Justice, Transportation, Treasury, State, Housing and Urban Development, along with other critical agencies.
During the 35-day government shutdown, a lapse in Indian Health Service (IHS) and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) funding hampered critical public safety, child welfare, and health care initiatives throughout Indian Country. Tribal governments were forced to take over the administration of federal BIA and IHS services, which quickly exhausted reserve funds and pushed some tribes to the financial brink, while also stymying basic operations such as contracting and hiring needed personnel.
That's why Tester worked with Republicans and Democrats to craft a deal that prevents another shutdown, increases funding for BIA and IHS, and provides critical resources to address the MMIW crisis.
Big wins for Indian Country in the budget deal include:
- $904 million for the Bureau of Indian Education
- $238 million for school construction
- $1 million increase for Tribal Colleges and Universities
- $2 million for Native language immersion programs
- $5.8 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS)
- $105 million for mental health programs
- $3.6 million for suicide prevention
- $245 million for alcohol and substance abuse programs
- $10 million to combat the opioid epidemic
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) Crisis
- $411.5 million for BIA public safety and justice initiatives
- $168 million (five percent) set aside for tribes in the Crime Victims Fund-which Tester's SURVIVE Act would make permanent.
- $4 million for Domestic Violence Prevention
- $1 million to study violence against Native American women
- $37 million to help Tribes process rape kits and other forensic evidence
Housing & Infrastructure
- $755 million for Native American Housing Block Grants
- $3.4 million for the implementation of Tester's NATIVE Act, which is used to rebuild infrastructure and invest in tourism opportunities.
- $4 million for Tribal-HUD VASH
- $1.4 million for the Indian Housing Loan Guarantee Fund
Tester also recently introduced legislation to protect Native American tribes from the financial harm caused by future government shutdowns. Tester's bill, the Indian Programs Advance Appropriations Act will hold the federal government accountable to its trust and treaty responsibilities by protecting essential federal and tribal initiatives from funding cuts during future government shutdowns. The bill will also give tribal governments long-term certainty by providing advanced funding for Indian IHS and BIA programs.