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Every week, Native News Online brings you the latest Indian Country news and moves from Washington, D.C.

First Deadline for Tribes to Request American Rescue Plan Funds

Tribal leaders are rushing to meet the first of two application deadlines to receive a portion of the $20 billion designated for tribes under the American Rescue Plan (ARP). 

The first deadline set by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for tribes to be eligible for two out of the three available funding streams from the $20 billion is Monday, May 24 at 11:59 p.m. PT. Tribal officials have until Monday, June 7 at 11:59 p.m. PT to apply for the third stream. Read more in Tribal Business News.

USDA Announces Farm Service Agency Debt Relief Payments for Disadvantaged Producers

The Dept. of Agriculture on Friday announced the process for implementing the Farm Service Agency (FSA) debt relief payments for socially disadvantaged producers included in the American Rescue Plan Act. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack acknowledged that “there’s never been an effort to earn the trust of social disadvantaged producers” at USDA and that this process, along with the additional programs and funding in the American Rescue Plan, will support addressing the historical and systemic discrimination socially disadvantaged producers have faced accessing USDA programs and funding opportunities.

“The Intertribal Agriculture Council applauds USDA for taking this strong first step,’ said Executive Director Kari Jo Lawrence. “We are encouraged by Secretary Vilsack’s acknowledgement of the historic and systemic barriers within USDA for socially disadvantaged producers and his commitment to create a more equitable USDA by opening the doors that were previously shut to our over 80,000 Indian Country producers.

Process for FSA Debt Relief Payments - Direct Loans

All eligible direct loan borrowers will receive a letter within 45 days of the NOFA being published with the following information:

  • Notification of eligibility;
  • FSA’s calculation of the amounts to be forgiven and payments, including the additional 20 percent to address tax liability;
  • Opportunity to confirm the amounts are correct and accept the payments; 
  • Information on action to take if the amounts are not correct;
  • Ability to decline the payments; and 
  • Information on any guaranteed loans that will be addressed in a subsequent NOFA.

Since the debt relief and 20 percent payments will be reported to the IRS, USDA stated it will ensure that producers have the ability to access information about the tax implications as well as support technical assistance from partner and community organizations. The Secretary noted that most farmers can average their income over a three-year period, and he encouraged producers to talk with their tax preparers and access the USDA’s information on tax liability.

Process for FSA Debt Relief Payments - Guaranteed Loans

For FSA guaranteed borrowers, a separate NOFA will be issued soon regarding the process for making debt payments to private lenders as it will require a few additional steps. USDA is asking all FSA guaranteed lenders to provide information on any prepayment penalties or other interest/fees as those will be paid by USDA to the lenders. 

USDA’s goal is to complete all of the FSA debt relief payments by the end of the Fall/Early Winter of 2021.

Legislation Introduced to Establish a U.S. Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs

Legislation was introduced on Thursday to establish a permanent United States Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs, whose duties would include representing the United States at the Arctic Council.

The legislation was introduced by Reps. Don Young (R-AK), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Brian Mast (R-FL), and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).

Established in 1996, the Arctic Council is the principal intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination, and interaction among the eight Arctic States: The United States, Canada, The Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, The Russian Federation and Sweden.

“The United States is an Arctic nation because of Alaska, and it is more important than ever that the United States is well-positioned to maintain security and stability in the region. This starts with strong leadership, which is why we need a U.S. Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs,” Rep. Young, Co-Chair of the Congressional Arctic Working Group said.

“As Russia and China continue to expand their influence in the Arctic Circle, it’s more important than ever that the United States have a strong presence in the region,” Rep. Mullin, who is a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation, said. “This legislation will ensure a permanent Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs is in place to protect our national security interests and keep our adversaries in check.”

Bill to Create A Congressional Charter for the National American Indian Veterans Organization is Reintroduced

Legislation, with bipartisan support, was reintroduced on Thursday to create a Congressional Charter for the National American Indian Veterans (NAIV). The legislation was reintroduced by U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).

Headquartered in South Dakota on the Cheyenne River Reservation, the NAIV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advocating for tribal veterans.

Originally started in 2004, today the NAIV serves the needs of Native veterans in all 50 states. NAIV formed as a result of a request by Senators Akaka, Inouye, and Nighthorse-Campbell during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in 2004.

While there are many congressionally chartered veterans service organizations, but none that solely represent the interests and needs of Native American veterans, according to Sen. Rounds.

“Our bill would change that by recognizing the mission and authority of the National American Indian Veterans, Inc. (NAIV) with a congressional charter. NAIV works closely with Tribal Veterans Services Officers to make certain the Native veterans receive proper benefits and resources. Congress regularly looks to NAIV for input when addressing issues facing Native veterans. This charter will help give NAIV a larger platform to continue advocating for and serving the more than 140,000 Native veterans living in the United States.”

“Native Americans have served our nation honorably in the Armed Forces – often times at higher rates than any other demographic. I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to create a Congressional Charter for the National American Indian Veterans Organization. NAIV is a crucial resource for Native veterans that delivers critical assistance and ensures that they have access to the benefits that they have earned,” Sen. Luján said.

“The bill doesn’t ask for any federal money; it only asks that the Congress recognize the sacrifices of generations of American Indians who have answered the nation’s call and fought in every war since the American Revolution,” Don Loudner, a Native veteran, enrolled member of the Hunkpati Sioux Tribe (Crow Creek Sioux Tribe), and National Commander of the National American Indian Veterans, Inc., said.

“On behalf of the Lower Brule community, specifically our veterans, we thank you for your hard work and dedication regarding those who served in the Military,” said Clyde J.R. Estes, Chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. “We respect and support the efforts of the National Commander of NAIV (National American Indian Veterans) Don Loudner and Senator Rounds to create a Congressional Charter (NAIV) for Native Veterans across our Tribal land. Your patriotism and desire to honor and pay tribute to our Veterans who served our country with the highest acts of gallantry is commendable.”

 

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