Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
There has been discussion about what will happen as the result of sequester which began at today at midnight. Some officials are calling it doomsday; others argue the forced spending cuts will not really negatively impact federal dollars long-term.
The White House released the following information on the negative impact on Indian country:
A majority of the budget funds -
Defense, Social Security, and Health programs
The National Congress of American Indians maintains the forced spending cuts will undermine the trust, treaty, and statutory obligations to tribal governments that are funded in the federal budget. Not only would it sacrifice the federal trust responsibility to tribes, but it would thwart tribes' ability to promote economic growth or plan for the benefit of future generations.
Some key education programs serving Indian Country would feel the impact of sequestration immediately. Impact Aid serves approximately 113,170 Native students. Many school districts qualifying for Impact Aid receive a high percentage of their overall funding from federal sources and use the money during the current school year. Sequestration would eliminate about $60 million for Impact Aid.
Many of these schools are counting on those funds to meet the basic needs of students and to pay teacher salaries this spring, potentially forcing districts to make wrenching, mid-year adjustments.
In New Mexico for example, the Gallup McKinley County Public Schools would lose about $2 million of the funds from Impact Aid, which could affect as many as 6,700 students who live on tribal lands. Impact Aid funds make up 35 percent of that district's total budget. A majority of the top 25 districts nationally that are most reliant on federal funding are on or border Indian reservations.
Indian Head Start stands to lose about $12 million nationally and the Child Care & Development Block Grants for Tribes stands to lose close to $2.4 million.
In addition to facing the immediate prospect of diminished services as a result of sequestration, the more long-term impact may be that automatic cuts in Indian country may affect tribes' ability to curb poverty in ways that have been effective over the past 20 years. From 1990 to 2007, tribes reduced the percentage of tribal citizens in poverty on tribal lands by more than one third.
The poverty rate for all reservation American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN) in 1990 was 51 percent (above). That rate dropped to 39 percent in 2000, and was recently at 33 percent in the 2008 Census American Community Survey (ACS) estimate. However, the American Indian and Alaska Native poverty rate on reservations increased to 40 percent in the 2011 ACS 1 year estimate.
Additionally, poverty for American Indians and Alaska Natives nationally, on and off reservation lands, was 20 percentage points lower in 1990, 10 percentage points lower in 2000, and 10 percentage points lower in 2010.
American Indian and Alaska Native programs have already been historically underfunded, which leaves our population as the poorest of any other racial/ethnic group in the country. Sadly, when it comes to housing, education, health and employment, living conditions in some parts of Indian country are comparable to those of third world countries.
The hope is President Obama and Congress can keep their commitment to the trust, treaty, and statutory obligations to tribal governments that are funded in the federal budget.
posted March 1, 2013 10:50 am est