Tester continues efforts to prevent damaging cuts in Indian Country

(U.S. Senate) – Senator Jon Tester continued his efforts to prevent damaging across-the-board budget cuts from impacting families in Indian Country.

Tester sent a letter to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Ranking Member Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) urging them to advance his legislation that will exempt the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, and critical housing assistance from sequestration. The Budget Committee has yet to take any action on Tester’s bill since receiving it in June.

“Sequestration threatens the fulfillment of federal treaty and trust obligations to tribes and disproportionally affects some of the poorest people in the country,” Tester wrote. “The constant risk of sequestration paralyzes planning in Indian Country and diminishes the safety and growth of Indian communities.”

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 years, but allowed the damaging across-the-board cuts to return in Fiscal Year 2016 if Congress failed 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’s letter to the Senate Budget Committee is also signed by Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.). The letter is available HERE.