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The Indian Health Service (IHS) announced on Thursday the final rule on the Buy Indian Act that will strengthen its requirements to set aside contracts for Indian-owned and controlled businesses.

“Supporting the growth of Native-owned and controlled businesses serving their communities is critical to supporting families facing the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This effort is just one example of our commitment to tribal communities in support of the President's Build Back Better framework to deliver meaningful outcomes for American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

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One part of the final rule alleviates unnecessary regulatory requirements previously in place. Native-owned businesses will be able to compete for $1billion in contracts annually. Types of businesses utilized by IHS are construction contractors to build health facilities, water supply structures and sewage waste projects. Additionally, IHS purchases medical supplies and services, among others.

The final rule supports the Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act of 2020, which requires IHS and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to harmonize Buy Indian Act procurement procedures. Both agencies are the only two federal agencies authorized to utilize the Buy Indian Act.

“With this final rule, we are clarifying the preference for Indian-owned businesses and removing barriers by alleviating unnecessary regulatory burdens,” said IHS Acting Deputy Director Elizabeth Fowler. “We are committed to improving economic conditions and providing more opportunities for Native-owned businesses.”

The final rule will:

  • alleviate unnecessary regulatory burden on Indian Economic Enterprises;
  • expand application of the Buy Indian Act to all construction including the planning, design and construction of health care facilities, personnel quarters, and water supply and waste disposal facilities;
  • better adhere to the language of the Buy Indian Act;
  • strengthen oversight of the Buy Indian Act to reduce the potential for fraud and abuse;
  • and clarify the preference for Indian Economic Enterprises;

The IHS held several virtual tribal consultation sessions and received comments after posting the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register in November 2020. Tribes and tribal organizations provided invaluable feedback for the final rule.

More information on the final rule is available in the IHS Buy Indian Act fact sheet.

The final rule was posted in the Federal Register on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022 and will take effect 60-days from its posting in compliance with statutory requirements.

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