Two Bipartisan Tester Bills to Support Native Americans Gain Momentum

Senators’ Bills to Revitalize Native American Languages, Support Homeless Native American Veterans Pass Committee

(U.S. Senate) – Two bipartisan bills authored by U.S. Senator Jon Tester to better support Native American veterans and strengthen Native languages today passed a key legislative hurdle.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today debated and then passed Tester’s Tribal HUD-VASH Act and Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act. These bills will now be considered by the full Senate.

The Tribal HUD-VASH Act

“Every veteran who served this country should have a safe and warm place to call home,” said Tester. “Our bipartisan bill builds on the success of this pilot program and expands it to every Native American veteran living in Indian Country. I look forward to moving our bill forward on the Senate floor.”

As Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester introduced the Tribal HUD-VASH Act with Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to formally codify a successful tribal housing initiative that provides rental and housing assistance to homeless and at-risk veterans in Indian Country.

While Native American veterans serve in the military at a higher rate than any other ethnic demographic in the United States, Native American tribes and tribal housing authorities had been unable to access funds from a joint Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program prior to Congressional authorization of a Tribal HUD-VASH pilot in 2014.

The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act

“Promoting Native languages strengthens students’ cultural identity and ensures the preservation of rich traditional languages,” said Tester. “Students who take Native language courses do better in school and are more connected to their community.”

Tester recently reintroduced the bipartisan Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act to revitalize and expand Native American languages. Tester’s bill reauthorizes the Native American Language Program through 2024 and lessens the minimum number of enrollees required to benefit from the program. The initiative funds Native language classes and restoration initiatives throughout Indian Country.

More information about today’s hearing can be found online HERE.