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On Saturday, President Joe Biden signed into law a six-bill funding package that will fund programs for the current year’s federal budget. 

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“This bipartisan bill delivers essential funding to help keep our promises to Tribes and to support Tribal communities and families—including by continuing to provide advance appropriations so the Indian Health Service can serve patients with certainty.” Sen. Murray said in a statement.

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Sen. Murray’s office furnished an overview of the funding package. More information on the six-bill package is available HERE. Text of the legislation is available HERE.

Funding for American Indian and Alaska Native programs is spread across several federal departments and agencies. The majority of funds appropriated for Indian Country are in the budgets of the  U.S. Department of the Interior and Indian Health Service (IHS).

Here is a breakdown of funds appropriated for Indian Country.

Key Points & Highlights – Tribal Programs 

Tribal Programs: In total, the bill provides $10.88 billion for Tribal programs across the Department of the Interior and the Indian Health Service. 

Health and Human Services

Indian Health Service (IHS): The bill provides $6.96 billion for IHS—an increase of $3.6 million over fiscal year 2023—to maintain critically important health care services and maintain current staffing for doctors, nurses, and health services staff. Importantly, the bill also continues the practice of advance appropriations for IHS, which were provided in a historic first for fiscal year 2024. The bill provides an advance appropriation for fiscal year 2025 of $5.19 billion to ensure budget certainty for a health care system that provides health services to 2.5 million people across Indian Country. This advance appropriation will provide the funding IHS needs to provide essential health services to patients in the following fiscal year. Finally, the bill provides an increase of $61.4 million to staff newly constructed facilities to ensure that IHS has the health care providers needed to meet increased patient demand. 

Interior Department

Supporting Tribal Self-Governance and Essential Services: The bill protects essential government services for key areas like roads, housing improvements, natural resources protection, Tribal courts, economic development, and social services by maintaining the fiscal year 2023 enacted levels for Tribal priority allocations. These budget lines are the lifeblood for Tribal governments exercising self-determination and are crucial to upholding the federal government’s trust responsibility.

Tribal Public Safety and Justice: The bill protects funding to support and invest in Tribal public safety and justice programs by providing $555.5 million—equal to fiscal year 2023—in resources for police services, special initiatives to address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons cases, Tribal courts, and detention and corrections officers. 

Maintaining Investments in Tribal Schools: The bill protects the Bureau of Indian Education’s Operation of Indian Education Programs by providing $1.13 billion, equal to fiscal year 2023, to support a school system of 183 schools and 33 Tribal Colleges and Universities delivering educational services to nearly 57,000 students. This includes funding to support school operational requirements, staffing, operating costs, Native language programs, scholarships, and support for school connectivity and remote learning capabilities. Protecting these investments will improve educational opportunities and service delivery for Native American students. 

Tribal Sovereignty Payments: The bill fully funds Tribal Sovereignty Payments, which consist of contract support costs and 105(l) lease payments. These are required payments that provide funding for Tribes’ overhead costs for self-governance under the Indian Self-Determination Education and Assistance Act

Commerce

EDA Assistance

 EDA Assistance: $5 million for EDA’s Assistance to Indigenous Communities Program—a new grant program focused exclusively on the economic development needs of Tribal governments and indigenous communities.

Supporting Crime Victims: The Crime Victims Fund (CVF) provides critical support through direct assistance and programs offered by victim service providers to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, human trafficking, and other violent crimes. The bill releases $1.35 billion from the CVF, providing $153 million above the President’s budget request. Of this amount, $67.65 million is designated for efforts to assist Tribal victims. 

Supporting State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Law Enforcement: The Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program is funded at $924 million. $345 million is released from Byrne JAG core funding to states and territories. The COPS Hiring Program is funded at $256 million. This funding will place over 2,000 more police officers on the streets of our communities. Funding is also included for programs that support officer mental health and wellness ($10 million), the purchase of body-worn cameras ($32 million) and bulletproof vests ($30 million), and rural law enforcement needs ($7 million).

The bill also includes a provision to allow the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to access additional funding to implement broadband programs under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, assisting grantees in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the territories. These programs are critical to connecting every American to high-speed, affordable broadband, and they include the Digital Equity Act Programs, the Middle Mile Program, and the Tribal Connectivity Program.

Energy

Tribal Energy: The bill provides $70 million for the Indian Energy Policy and Programs. The funding will help continue electrifying the 30,000 Tribal homes that do not have access to power.

Transportation

Highways and Bridges: The bill provides $62.991 billion for federal-aid highways, consistent with the IIJA-authorized level of spending from the Highway Trust Fund, with an additional $2.225 billion for Highway Infrastructure Programs. This includes $250 million for a new bridge bundling grant program, $150 million for the Tribal Transportation Program, $100 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System, $7.5 million for Scenic Byways, and other critical investments. 

Transportation Infrastructure for Tribes: The bill includes $25 million to supplement the Rural and Tribal Infrastructure Advancement Pilot Program to deliver financial, legal, technical, and project development assistance in an effort to improve Tribal access to transportation infrastructure programs at DOT. It also includes $150 million in FHWA’s Tribal Transportation Program and $500,000 for transit technical assistance for Tribes.

Housing

Expands Access to Housing Assistance for Tribes: The bill provides a record $1.344 billion for the Native American Housing Block Grant program. Through this historic level of funding and the sustained investment in the Tribal Housing and Related Agency Infrastructure Interagency Task Force, the bill will make significant progress in addressing the dire housing needs of Indian Country, where residents are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty and nearly three times more likely to live in overcrowded conditions compared to other U.S. households.

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About The Author
Levi Rickert
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Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].