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WASHINGTON — The biggest news in the nation’s capital this past week for Native Americans was the signing of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization Act of 2022 on Wednesday by President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House.

Some two dozen Native Americans were among the White House crowd to celebrate the tribal provision in the VAWA.

“Tribal courts will now be able to exercise jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse, sex trafficking and so on,” Biden said.

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In addition to this reporting by Native News Online, a roundup of other news released from Washington, D.C. that impacts Indian Country follows. 

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Held Hearing on Native Capacity Building

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday held an oversight hearing titled, “Buy Native American: Federal Support for Native Business Capacity Building and Success.”

During the hearing, senators heard testimony by representatives from the United States Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and the Interior in support of tribal economies and helping build Native business capacity. The representatives described their federal departments’ efforts to support tribal energy and agriculture programming, as well as barriers that still exist and inhibit the success of Native businesses. 

Click here to watch the full video of the hearing. 

FCC Selects Yukon Flats Health Center for Connected Care Pilot Program

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its fourth and final set of approved Connected Care Pilot Program projects. Among the 16 selected projects chosen was a project of the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments (Yukon Flats Health Center) in Fort Yukon, Alaska.

Through its pilot project, Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments will receive $1.1 million in Connected Care support to provide patient-based, Internet-connected remote monitoring, video visits, imaging diagnostics, remote treatment, and other services for veterans and low-income patients with chronic conditions, high-risk pregnancy/maternal health, infectious diseases like COVID-19, mental health conditions, and opioid dependency. 

This Pilot project would impact an estimated 5,588 patients, 95 percent of whom would be low-income and 5 percent of whom would be veterans. This project was chosen because of its potential impact on low-income and veteran patients in a rural region in Alaska. 

Additional Disaster FEMA Funds Will Reduce Contributions by 15 Percent

FEMA on Friday announced that additional disaster funding is available to all states, tribal nations and territories with Presidential major disaster and emergency declarations occurring in 2020 and 2021.

The additional funds are now available after President Joe Biden signed “H.R. 2471, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022.” The bill grants a minimum of a 90 percent federal cost share for any emergency or major disaster declaration that was declared occurring or having an incident period beginning between Jan. 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021. 

This increased the federal cost share from the standard 75 percent to 90 percent for Public Assistance, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program and specified Individual Assistance programs authorized under an emergency and major disaster declaration. 

This 15 percent increase is important to tribes that have struggled to come up with 25 percent of their share to cover costs after natural disasters and emergency declarations. This ensures that Tribes can recover and build stronger and resilient communities. 

Rep. Tom Cole introduces the Protect American Election Administration Act 

On Thursday, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a tribal citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, introduced a bill that seeks to block the private takeover of government election administration, protect individual states’ voting laws, prevent private funding for ballot harvesting or curing, and to prevent the use of election infrastructure to conduct ideologically motivated voter outreach campaigns. 

The events of the 2020 election are what inspired Rep. Cole to create this bill to prevent those events from occurring in future elections. 

Cole said in a statement: “After a tumultuous 2020 election cycle, it is clear that this confidence has taken a hit. That is why I introduced the Protect American Election Administration Act, which would prevent political agendas funded by private dollars from interfering with individual states’ non-partisan voting processes while ensuring that eligible voters have voting access.”

Neely Bardwell (descendant of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians), a Michigan State University student who is interning with Native News Online, contributed to these briefs.

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