Published January 13, 2019
FORT HALL, Idaho — The Fort Hall Business Council (FHBC) has taken actions to assist tribal members, employees and community members who are experiencing hardship from the federal government closure. The Tribes are taking additional measures to provide essential governmental services, and to reduce impacts to Tribal employees and the Fort Hall Community. Since this is the longest closure of the federal government, the Tribes have a Contingency Plan and are meeting weekly on how to proceed in the coming weeks.
Local residents who are employed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Indian Health Service (IHS) and other federal agencies are struggling without paychecks or are working without pay.
To effectively guide the Tribes through this unexpected situation, we have a 2019 Tribal Closure Plan that defines essential services to include programs that provide public safety, health and medical care, key social and behavioral services, and postal service. We have also identified a need for on-call work, of programs who must provide needed services and will be determined on a case by case basis.
In this fourth week of the government closure, which means, with limited exceptions, Tribal departments will operate at 80% next week. The Tribes are scheduled to be closed on Friday, January 18th.
In addition, all employee travel will be reviewed on a case by case basis and continued restrictions on expenditures, use of personal leave and hiring freeze remains in place. The Closure Plan will be in effect until February 2, 2019. The Tribes hope the shutdown will be resolved prior to that date.
However, Fort Hall Business Council has identified and approved several strategies to help our Tribal employees and community members who are directly impacted. These strategies include:
- The FHBC approved a temporary exemption to the Tribal Personnel Manuel to allow Tribal employees to “moonlight” and allow employees to work temporarily at another job.
- It also allows personal leave to be accrued for those career status employees who are impacted by the reduction in work hours.
- Tribal Personnel is developing official letters to enable qualified Tribal employees to get unemployment benefits.
- FHBC have also provided another week of employment for temporary employees (extends to next Thursday, January 17th).
- To assist the community, the Tribal Housing Opportunity Program (THOP) is offering workshops on crisis budgeting and is offering to set appointments with individuals to help with personal finances. As a part of that education, THOP is working with local lending institutions let their customers know what programs is available to customers who are experiencing hardship from the shutdown.
Tribal leadership urges the Fort Hall community and tribal members to unify and support our own community in our collective efforts to respond to the shutdown. We are all impacted by this continued stalemate in Congress and the White House. FHBC will be providing more information and available for any questions at the February District meetings. Check back on the Tribes FB page for a complete list of dates for the district meetings.