Published May 25, 2017
National Center Board Chairman Derrick Watchman expresses concerns about cuts in the Administration’s FY 2018 Budget Request
“While the budget is merely a starting point in the federal appropriations process, we urge Congress to reject these drastic cuts to critical programs that help Native Americans across the country,” said Watchman. “From Community Development Block Grants tabbed specifically for tribes, to offices whose mission is to serve Indian Country, this budget axes offices that should see a funding increase and takes a hatchet to programs that shouldn’t even be chiseled. We appreciate the Committee for taking the time to hear our concerns, and encourage others in Indian Country to weigh in during the appropriations process.”
The National Center makes recommendations on priority programs in offices in its written remarks for the Committee. Of note is the proposed elimination of Community Development Block Grants, which have a 1.5% set aside for Indian Country. Elimination of these grants would mean tens of millions in funding losses to Indian Country alone. Other requests include:
- $36 million for all Department of Defense (DOD) Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC), including $4.5 million specifically for American Indian PTACs. The budget request does not specifically outline PTAC funding levels.
- $18 million for the 5% Indian Incentive Program to better align with higher proposed DOD spending.
- At least $2 million for the authorized Office of Native American Business Development (ONABD), currently within the Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The proposed budget eliminates the MBDA completely in favor of other programs and efforts.
- $50 million for the Administration for Native Americans (ANA). The National Center is pleased that the budget includes level funding for the ANA.
- $15 million to support approximately $250 million in private sector financing for Indian Country projects through the Indian Loan Guarantee Program. The Administration’s budget proposes only $6.7 million in funding – down from $8.7 million in the current fiscal year – that would cap aggregate loan value at a mere $87.3 million.
- At least $9 million for the Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program to keep consistent with current levels.
- At least level funding of $15.5 million for grants for Native Community Development Financial Institutions (Native CDFIs). The Administration’s budget eliminates funding for these and all critical grants.
- Add an additional $5 million to the budget request for the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development (OIEED) within the Department of the Interior. The budget request includes some increases for the energy components of the office, but Congress needs to boost funding for economic development initiatives, including Native American business incubators.
- $2 million (current funding) for the Office of Native American Affairs at the Small Business Administration. The budget request includes a $500,000 cut from current levels.
- Maintain funding levels for the Office of Tribal Relations within the Department of Agriculture, and preserve funding for Rural Development programs with set asides for Indian Country. Sadly, these and other programs that have a large impact on Indian communities see significant cuts.
- Level funding ($20 million) for the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs within the Department of Energy. The proposed budget cuts funding by half.
National Center President and CEO Chris James reiterated the National Center’s concerns during remarks yesterday before the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) Mid-Year Convention in Portland, Oregon.
“It’s important for Indian Country – from the Northwest and Alaska to the Southeast – to make their voices heard as Congress sets critical funding levels for fiscal year 2018,” James told ATNI. “The Administration’s budget request further emphasizes the need for tribes to work together to ensure our collective economic success and that our voices are heard. The National Center looks forward to continuing to advocate for and support economic development in Indian Country.”