Tester Scores Big Wins for Indian Country

Wins include funding for water projects, resources to fight addiction, and support for childcare

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – As a senior member of both the Senate Appropriations and Indian Affairs Committees, U.S. Senator Jon Tester scored big wins for Indian Country in the annual funding bill passed late last week.

“This bipartisan bill benefits Montana tribes and reservations,” Tester said. “Our country must uphold its trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Country and this bill gives us the resources to do that. From investing in rural water systems to providing support in the war against addiction, this budget addresses many of the pressing needs Montana’s native communities face-I made sure of it.”

These wins include $50 million for tribes to fight the meth and opioid epidemics, a $162 million investment in Bureau of Indian Affairs infrastructure, and $130 million in additional funding for Indian Tribes in the Crime Victims Fund.

Tester helped secure $120 million for Rural Water Projects, including:

  • $6 million for the Fort Peck/Dry Prairie Rural Water System
  • $4.85 million for the Rocky Boys/North Central Montana Rural Water System 
  • An initial $10 million towards the Blackfeet Water Settlement
  • $12.7 million for the Crow Water Settlement

Ongoing water projects will also likely see increases thanks to the additional $66.5 million Tester secured for existing Rural Water Projects, which will be allocated after the Bureau of Reclamation portions out this funding.

Tester secured a $497 million budget increase for the Indian Health Service, including $300 million in additional funding to update and construct new health care facilities. The budget bill also includes provisions from Tester’s Opioid Response Enhancement Act, which reauthorizes the State Targeted Opioid Response (STR) Grant Program. However, up until now only states have been eligible to apply for STR Grant funding. Tester’s provisions will not only allow tribes to apply directly for these funds, but also set aside at least $50 million for tribal entities in 2018.

Tester secured $3 billion for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, including $914 million in funding for the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and a $162 million increase in investment for BIE school construction, public safety, and irrigation projects. He also secured $157 million in Child Care and Development Block Grant funding for Indian Country. This grant program supplies funding for early childhood education and childcare initiatives.

Tester helped secure an additional $101 million ($655 million total) for Native American Housing Block Grants and a total of $65 million in community development block grant funding for tribes. Tester recently secured more than $2.5 million for the Blackfeet, Fort Peck, and Flathead Reservations through these two programs. Tester also secured $5 million to provide housing assistance to Native American veterans, $4 million in Rural Business Development Program funding for Indian Country, and $16 million to bolster native financial institutions.