Tester, Udall introduce bill to prevent damaging cuts in Indian Country

Previous across-the-board budget cuts significantly impacted Native American communities

(U.S. Senate) – Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) have introduced legislation to prevent the return of damaging across-the-board budget cuts that significantly impacted health care, education, public safety, and housing throughout Indian Country.

Tester and Udall’s bill will exempt the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, and critical housing assistance from future sequestration.

“Congress must uphold its trust responsibilities rather than balancing the budget on the backs of folks in Indian Country,” Tester said. “This bill prevents further damaging cuts to health care, education, public safety, and housing for Native American families.”

“Across-the-board budget cuts presented a major setback for Indian Country, forcing cuts to vital programs that New Mexico tribal communities depend on,” Udall said. “We have a trust responsibility to uphold to tribes, and I’m pleased to work with Senator Tester on this legislation to ensure that important health care, education, public safety and housing programs that support economic growth in Indian Country won’t be subject to future disastrous sequestration cuts.”

The Budget Control Act of 2011 mandated automatic cuts to the federal budget known as sequestration if a larger budget deal could not be reached. A budget agreement in 2013 suspended those cuts for two fiscal years, thus allowing these damaging across-the-board cuts to return in Fiscal Year 2016 if Congress fails to act.

Sequestration will further restrict access to health care, education, and housing resources that are already consistently underfunded in Indian Country.

The negative impacts of sequestration in Indian Country included a:
• $220 million cut to Indian Health Services forcing 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 804,000 fewer outpatient visits
• $42.2 million cut to the Bureau of Indian Education
• $11.9 million cut to Tribal Head Start, impacting 25,000 Native American children
• $18.3 million cut for public safety funding resulting in fewer police officers
• $34.5 million cut to Indian housing block grants
• 5 percent cut to tribal college operating budgets, impacting 88,000 students.

The overall impact of sequestration in Indian Country totaled $500 million and impacted over two million Native Americans.

Tester and Udall’s bill is available HERE.