Contact: Jared King
Trump signs fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriations
WASHINGTON—On March 23, President Trump signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the federal government for the remaining fiscal 2018. Funding for Indian affairs received an increase despite the president’s budget calling for a budget cut. The following provides a summary of items of the omnibus bill as it relates to Indian programs.
Within the omnibus bill, Indian Programs within the U.S. Department of the Interior will be funded at about $3.1 billion, which is an increase of $2.9 billion (8.6 percent) from fiscal 2017. Of this amount, the operation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education will receive about $2.41 billion (+3.1 percent). Additionally, construction will receive a significant increase of $354 million (+84 percent), Indian land and water settlements will receive $55 million (+23 percent), and Indian guaranteed loan program will receive $9.3 million (+9 percent). Construction projects for the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project are funded out of the $354 million construction funding. Contract support cost is fully funded.
The Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation (ONHIR) will remain at the same funding level of $15.431 million. In a change from fiscal 2017, there is no longer funding for the Office of Inspector General of the Department of the Interior to audit and investigate ONHIR.
Indian Health Service (IHS) will receive about $5.5 billion, which is an increase of about $498 million (10 percent) increase from fiscal 2017. Of this amount, $3.95 billion is allocated for IHS services and $868 million for IHS facilities cost. IHS contract support costs are fully funded. The bill also added provisions to authorize a housing allowance for IHS civilian medical personnel.
The Native American Housing Block Grants program will receive a $1 million increase to $655 million to remain available until September 30, 2022. Congress also added $100 million for competitive grants pursuant to Title 1 of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act (NAHASDA) to remain available until September 30, 2022. Congress did not include the three years prior allocation limitation language from last year.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will receive $8.1 billion in funding, which is at the same level as fiscal 2017. Funding for State and Tribal Assistance Grants will be about $3.56 billion, which is an increase by about $35 million. The bill also now requires funds appropriated for the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program be made available to Indian tribes for solid waste and recovered materials collection, transportation, backhaul, and disposal services. The bill also provides $1,500,000 for brownfield audits and assistance to small communities, Indian tribes, rural areas, or disadvantaged areas in carrying out audits with respect to brownfield sites.
The Department of Education will receive $70.8 billion, which is a $2.7 billion increase from fiscal 2017. Funding for Indian Education under title VI of Elementary and Secondary Education Act is set at $180 million, which is an increase of $15 million (+9 percent) for fiscal 2017. In addition, $75 million is included to improve the quality of education for Native students and to recruit and support Native American teachers and school administrators. Head Start will be funded at $9.9 billion, which is an increase of $610 million (+7 percent). Impact Aid will receive $1.4 billion, which is an increase of $86 million from fiscal 2017. Higher Education will receive $2.25 billion, which is an increase of $191 million (+9.3 percent).
The Federal-Aid Highways program is funded at $44.23 billion, which is an increase of about $968 million (+2.2 percent). This means that the Tribal Transportation Program will likely be funded at the president’s budget request of $485 million, an increase of $10 million from fiscal 2017. The TIGER grant program will receive $1.5 billion, which is an increase of $1 billion (+300 percent) from fiscal 2017. The Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program, which has been previously unfunded, is now funded at $300 million.
Within the Department of Labor, Native American programs in training and employment services will receive $54 million.
With regards to telecommunications, the omnibus bill requires the Federal Communications Commission to submit a tribal broadband data report to Congress within one year of enactment to evaluate broadband coverage in Indian country. The bill also identifies 255 Megahertz for Federal and non-Federal spectrum for mobile and fixed wireless broadband use and requires consideration on the impact on State, local and tribal government capabilities.
The bill also proposes $1.33 billion for Bureau of Reclamation Water and Related Resources with $67.7 million for the Upper Colorado River Basin, which is a very significant increase from the fiscal 2017 amount of $22,000, and $5,551,000 for the Lower Colorado River Basin, which is level funding from fiscal 2017.
The bill set construction funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at $2.085 billion, which is an increase of $209 million from fiscal 2017.
The Natural Resources Conservation Services operations will receive $874 million, which is an increase of $9.6 million from fiscal 2017.
The bill provides $16 million for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) financial and technical assistance and training and outreach programs for Native American communities, which is an increase of $500,000 from fiscal 2017.
The bill provides $10,000,000 for Indian tribes for reclamation of abandoned mine lands as well as economic and community development.
Now that this omnibus appropriations bill is completed, the appropriations committee will now work on fiscal 2019 appropriation bills. For this purpose, the Interior and Environment Subcommittee will hold hearings on May 9-10, 2018 for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
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