Interior Fact Sheet on FY 1996 BIA Funding

The Senate Appropriations Committee slashed the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) FY 1996 President's Budget by $434.5 million, or 23%. The cut is $255 million (15%) below 1995.

The impact of these cuts will be disastrous to Indian country, where the income, employment, and educational attainment of Indian people already fall well below the general population. The Senate mark puts Indian people in a precarious position. Any progress made in achieving Indian Self-Determination will be reversed, because tribes will be delayed in developing strong and stable governments capable of administering quality programs and developing the economies of their respective communities.

LOCAL TRIBAL PROGRAMS: By far the greatest consequence will be the negative impact of a reduction of approximately $160,000,000 in contracts to Indian tribes to run their own programs. This reduction in Tribal Priority Allocations will undermine Law Enforcement and Tribal Court efforts, as well as Social Service programs (which include child protection and child welfare initiatives). Also impacted will be job creation, job training and economic development efforts as well as scholarships and training for Indian youth and adults, management, protection and preservation of natural resources such as fisheries, forestry, minerals/mining and agriculture and water resources.

These cuts will be a devastating blow to tribal self determination and self governance efforts in support of tribal governments to operate their own programs. By the same token, funding for tribal contracts will have to be reduced by approximately 30% that will further depress employment levels on reservations. Current TPA funding for Bureau operation programs will be reduced to a level that services will not be provided to Indian people.

Approximately 3,300 BIA employees are funded by the Tribal Priorities account, of that amount approximately 1,300 jobs will be eliminated as a result of the $206,000,000 reduction. Current estimates are that this will require consolidation of Agency offices from the present level of 86 to nearly half that amount.

AREA OFFICE OPERATIONS: In order to absorb the approximately Offices will have to be abolished and a new regional configuration will have to be established, with a corresponding decrease in employees of approximately 350.

CENTRAL OFFICE OPERATIONS: Employee reductions of approximately 40% (or 330 jobs) will be required to bring the Central Office staff within funding levels called for in the Senate proposal. The ability of the Bureau to provide policy program analysis is severely limited at this level. The basic administration structure to support programs both tribal and Bureau has been reduced.

The Senate also transferred $410 million and the responsibility for all trust programs from the BIA to the Office of the Special Trustee in the immediate office of the Secretary of the Interior. The Special Trustee's office was established by the 1994 American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act to provide the Secretary with expert advice in areas of trust fend accounting, management, and investment. The Special Trustee was not intended to be a line official with day-to-d ay responsibility for the implementation of programs for the protection and management of a wide variety of trust assets, including land, timber, minerals, and water.

LOCAL TRIBAL PROGRAMS REDUCED BY ONE-THIRD: The Senate cut Tribal Priority Allocations by $220 million that will result in tribes losing 35% of their funds needed to support critical programs at the local tribal level. These programs include tribal governmental operations; general assistance to Indian individuals and families whose income is below current state standards; child welfare programs that provide assistance to abandoned or neglected children and prevent the separation of Indian families; higher education scholarships; law enforcement, detention services and community fire protection; maintenance of more than 20 million miles of roads on rural and isolated reservations; and housing repair for needy families.

NEW CHILD PROTECTION PROGRAM ZEROED: The Senate zeroed the BIA's request for funds to establish child protection and family violence prevention programs on Indian reservations. Just a few weeks ago, Congress reauthorized this grant program, citing the serious child abuse problems on reservations.

SCHOOL ACCREDITATION JEOPARDIZED: The Senate cut of $30.6 million severely limits the Bureau's ability to meet its responsibilities for educating Indian children. At least 7% of the children in BIA schools could be turned away in School Year 1996-97 because there will not be sufficient funds to pay teachers' salaries or provide transportation for all the students. The Bureau anticipates a 4% increase in student enrollment in 1996; the Senate level allows

RESERVATION SAFETY JEOPARDIZED: The $23.6 million cut in Education Construction presents a serious problem with the safety of BIA school facilities. The Senate reduced new school construction by first century for construction of new schools to replace dilapidated buildings. The $10 millon cut in school repair funds, despite a backlog of $660 million in BIA facility repair projects, basically means that many Indian children will attend school in crowded and potentially unsafe school buildings that would have otherwise been repaired with 1996 funding. BIA will be forced to close schools where children are in imminent danger due to health and safety risks. The Senate reduced law enforcement construction by $8.9 million. Without adequate detention facilities, criminal offenders remain at large and at risk to the communities. Funds for correcting structural deficiencies on high hazard dams were reduced by $12 million, putting public safety at risk in nearby communities.

UNREASONABLE CUT IN CENTRAL AND AREA OFFICES: Funding for Indian services functions in BIA's Central Office is reduced by 58%, leaving the Bureau without sufficient resources to provide policy direction or correct material weakness areas. To pay for severance costs, it will be necessary to terminate almost all Central Office staff in Washington and Albuquerque. Indian services functions at area offices are reduced by 47%, forcing closure of area offices that provide assistance to tribes. Administrative costs in the BIA are already low, with 86% of all BIA operating funds going directly to the tribes and reservations.

IMPORTANCE OF BIA FUNDING TO TRIBES MISREPRESENTED: In the Senate report on the proposed appropriations bill, the Committee defended the reduction of over one-fifth of the BIA budget by implying that tribes depend more heavily on non-BIA federal programs. It is true that BIA represents about 30% of all federal funds for Indian programs. However, it is through the BIA that the tribes receive funds critical to the ongoing operation of tribal governments, as the tribes depend on the BIA for a wide variety of basic programs not available from other federal agencies. The Indian Health Service, comprising about 36% of federal funding for Indian programs, is limited to the provision of health and medical services. The Department of Education provides 9% of the federal funds for Indians, with almost all of these funds going to states for Indian children in public schools. The remaining 25% of federal funds are for specific programs with narrow eligibility requirements. These programs are also intensely critical to the tribes and must not be reduced, however, it is deceptive to imply that tribes can look to other federal programs to compensate for the deep cuts made to the BIA.

SUMMARY: It will be necessary to reduce nearly 2,000 jobs in the Bureau, with the majority of those jobs involved in providing services to tribes that have chosen not to contract or compact for those functions and fulfilling inherent federal functions for all tribes at the tribe/agency level.

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