Despite decades of turmoil in an attempt to obtain full sovereignty, Native American tribes are still at risk of losing necessary resources for survival. With the recent reveal that President Donald Trump’s budget proposal will cut agencies and programs critical to Native American livelihood, the rights of Tribal members throughout the U.S. may be at risk.
President Trump’s proposed 2018 fiscal budget, called “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” calls to reduce millions of dollars dedicated toward Native Americans. This includes cutting the Department of Interior’s budget by 11 percent, the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ budget by more than $300 million, reducing spending in the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 13.2 percent, decreasing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31.4 percent, cutting the Department of Health and Human Services’ budget by 16.2 percent, and reducing funding for the Department of Education by 13.5 percent.
The aforementioned departments contribute to the welfare of approximately 2.2 million Native Americans and their communities through programs, initiatives, funding and more, according to the Indian Health Service. This proposal aims to reallocate these funds elsewhere, increasing funding to the defense policy by 4.6 percent, the National Nuclear Security Administration by 11.4 percent, Veteran’s Affairs by 5.8 percent, Program Integrity by 24.5 percent, and Homeland Security by 1.2 percent.
While affordable Tribal housing is facing a major setback, some Native lands also face losing cultural preservation. As part of the cutbacks in the Department of Interior, the Budget plans to eliminate the Heritage Partnership Program, which provides ‘financial and technical assistance to congressional designated National Heritage Areas.’ Many Tribal lands are a part of the program, including the Yuma Crossing in Arizona, Blue Ridge in North Carolina, Champlain Valley in New York and Vermont, Northern Rio Grande in New Mexico, Great Basin in Utah and Nevada, and Niagara Falls in New York. Despite the $19 million previously used to help preserve these areas, among others, the Administration claims they are better maintained with local funding.
While the Bureau, which includes the Bureau of Indian Education, would still receive $2.5 billion, the millions cut from this budget can drastically affect Tribal lands. This Bureau is in charge of the Advancing Indian Education program, elementary and secondary education programs, post-secondary programs, education management programs and more. Proposed program reductions include $7.7 million from Early Childhood and Family Development, $5.8 million from Education program enhancements, $4.6 million from Johnson O’Malley Assistance Grants, $2.4 million from ISEP Program Adjustments and $1 million from Tribal Education Departments.
According to the 2018 Major Savings and Reforms official document, the defunding of the Department of Housing and Urban Development is “targeted to Native American Tribes and Alaskan Native villages.” One of the most significant cuts is the $108 million reduction in grants to Native American Tribes and Alaska Native Villages, which would only allocate a total of $600 million. These grants provide affordable housing and related activities to Tribal communities, and the Trump Administration plans to reallocate the money to ‘higher priority areas,’ including national security and public safety. The budget would also eliminate the Indian Community Development Block Grant, which provides money to Tribes for affordable housing, community facilities and infrastructure.
Part of the EPA’s defunding is eliminating the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). While the proposal justifies the elimination by saying that states have regulations that prevent people from having utilities cut off in certain circumstances, many of these regulations do not apply to Tribal members. For many, LIHEAP provides heat during winter in the north and air conditioning during the summer in the south.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Native Americans and Alaska Natives from more than 567 federally-recognized tribes receive health care and services from the Department. With the proposed budget, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Community Services Block Grant, Health Professions and Nursing Training programs and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program will all be cut.
Aside from reallocating millions of dollars into charter schools and eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which helps students meet academic standards and provides enrichment activities, the proposal also seeks to eliminate Impact aid payments for federal property. This $67 million program helps Native American reservations, military bases and other federal areas provide schools and educational programs to students.
The Administration’s proposed budget plans to completely eliminate funding to the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). Without this program, the federal government will no longer reimburse state, local and Tribal governments for arresting criminals who are illegal immigrants. The 2017 budget was $210 million and Florida is one of four states that receive more than two-thirds of these funds.
Other programs receiving significant cuts are Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, student loans, Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax programs. This budget is not final and numerous reports believe that Congress will not approve many aspects of “A New Foundation for American Greatness.” According to the White House website, Congress should have a finalized version of the fiscal budget by June 30. The 2018 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.