The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) introduced a new bill on May 17 whose backers say will improve capital access, encourage tribal community investment and advance
opportunities for Native American businesses. SCIA Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., is sponsoring the Indian Economic Enhancement Act of 2017, which amends the Native American Business Development, Trade Promotion and Tourism Act of 2000, the Buy Indian Act and the Native American Programs Act of 1974.
In a press release, Hoeven said that it is common for Native American businesses and communities to face economic barriers and the bill will help alleviate these issues.
“This bill will stimulate growth by improving access to capital, increasing opportunities for Native business and encouraging investment in our tribal communities,” he said. “These updates are important for empowering Native entrepreneurs and creating good paying jobs in Indian Country. I am glad the committee acted expeditiously today to advance this measure.”
If passed, the legislation will modify interagency coordination between the Commerce, Interior and Treasury departments, elevate the Director for Indian programs to report to the Secretary of Commerce and promote consultation on Securities and Exchange Commission regulations to make Tribes accredited investors. Supporters say the bill would also enhance federal loan and economic development programs, improve and support Native CDFIs, increase Buy Indian Act procurements by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service, and reauthorize the Native American Programs Act.
Committee member and co-sponsor Sen. John McCain,R-Ariz., said he started advocating the bill because the issue hits close to home.
“Many Indian reservations across my home state of Arizona and the western United States continue to struggle with high unemployment rates and few business opportunities. We must do more to change this,” he said in a press release. “This legislation addresses these serious challenges by expanding key economic development services for Native Americans who aspire to open a business on their own on Tribal lands.”
Congress re-established SCIA in 1977 to help identify and alleviate issues regarding American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native tribal members. According to the subcommittee, these issues may include, but are not limited to, Native American education, economic development, land management, trust responsibilities, health care and federal claims.
The bill is still under review and amendments are being processed. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives must pass the bill and President Donald Trump must sign the bill for it to be placed into law. The committee encourages tribal governments to urge more senators to co-sponsor the bill for further support.