By Libby Casey
As states and agencies wade through the budget President Obama proposed the White House is promoting its funding plans for Alaska Native and American Indian tribes.
The President’s adviser on Native American issues, Kim Teehee, says considering the cuts to the budget, Indian Country programs did O-K.
Overall, the government wide funding for Native Americans actually increased. We faired pretty well in light of all the tough choices that had to be made, and we definitely paid attention to our policy priorities, and that’s reflected in the budget as well.
Teehee says next fiscal year’s total proposed funding for Alaska Native and Native American programs is more than $19-Billion, an increase of 4 percent over the last cycle’s funding. That’s nearly a Billion dollars more than two years ago. The President’s plan calls for increases to the Indian Health Service, the Department of Justice, and Department of Transportation tribal programs. There’s also a boost to Department of Agriculture’s rural development programs.
However Alaska Native tribes would take dramatic cuts in some areas. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that sends millions of dollars to Alaskan tribes for heating costs would be slashed in half. The Obama Administration is also targeting the High Energy Cost Grants program which helps rural Alaska, and wants to cut in half the program that conveys land to Alaska Natives. And its goal of zeroing out the Denali Commission’s health clinics program would hit Alaska natives.
But Sally Erickson, an Associate Director at the federal Office of Management and Budget, says there is some money available for tribes in need.
There’s a small needy tribes program to ensure that there’s minimum base funding to run tribal governments. That could be a source of funding. They could get up to 190 thousand dollars in base funding for Alaska tribes.
State and tribal officials are going over the budget numbers to see exactly what the proposals would mean. Over the coming weeks, the President’s team is taking their budget to Congress to undergo scrutiny.