Critical programs on Cheyenne River are affected as President Trump insists on funding a border wall.
Nationally, 2,295 Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) employees of the 4,057 are forced into a temporary leave of absence, or furlough, until government operations resume.
Attempts to contact CRST BIA for the number of employees impacted were referred to the Aberdeen office, and from there to Washington D.C.
Both the BIA and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) have shifted into contingency planning mode. This means that the protection of human life, prevention of harm, ensuring the safety and well-being of employees and the protection of property are among the concerns of the BIA, and ensuring continued leadership, according to the Department of the Interior (DOI) website, source link below.
“Law Enforcement personnel are retained for the protection of life and property and are funded from carryover. If funds are exhausted, these employees would continue to be on duty in excepted status” the contingency plan states.
Excepted status employees could face circumstances qualifying them for unpaid leave according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) at www.opm.gov.
Normal national BIA operations include some contracted projects and services.
Projects concerning transportation, irrigation and power revenue are funded by revenues collected for those sites, and not part of any overlapping appropriations currently stalled.
The BIE is funded through the 2019 school year, as funds are appropriated the year prior. Funding is available to support continued instruction and related educations services the DOI website states. Out of the 3,344 BIE employees, 40 are subject to furlough.
In the October 2018 session, CRST Tribal Council requested funding increases above the 2018 BIE programs, for school equalization, facilities for Elementary and Secondary students, transportation and facilities maintenance.
Tribal Council approved the “resolution to oppose the OPM’s discriminatory interpretation of Indian Health Care Improvement Act” because it creates unequal access to benefit packages and services. A Dec. 21, 2018 notification from Indian Health Service (IHS) to Tribes and Tribal organizations stated that the “agency cannot pay Tribes or Tribal organizations contracting under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act until appropriations are enacted” and acknowledged that this could result in “insufficient funds to carry out the terms of the agreement and that the program may cease to operate.”
Health needs of Native Nations people are “far below” the general U.S. population, reports the IHS on its www.ihs.gov website. Health-oriented programs and the people served by them will suffer if the shutdown continues for years, as President Trump threatened January 4, according to the New York Times.
Budget increase requests in October approved by Tribal Council included Early Child and Family development programs, as well as facilities replacement, employee housing and improvement.
Indian Health Services are now operating with reduced staff, though nearly three quarters remain working, many under “excepted status.” Some long-term health and preventative programs are caught in the shutdown. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), for example, is currently “unable to support most environmental health professional training programs” which are part of providing continuous health updates in regards to exposure to toxins according to www.hhs.gov. This means that environmental health oversight is also stopped.
During 2017 the Department of Agriculture food program helped feed about 90,000 Native American people, in a report from the USDA. If the dispute about Trump’s border wall is not resolved by the end of the month funding for the program could be hit hard.
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