It’s been more than a month since the federal budget cuts took effect. The across-the-board spending cuts impact federal agencies including the Pentagon and the FAA. American Indian tribes in Idaho are now beginning to see the impact of those cuts.
Amber Ebarb is a policy analyst at the National Congress of American Indians. She says for many tribes, the sequester could not have come at a worse time. She says there are nearly 18,000 American Indians eligible for services in Idaho.
“These are the people who will be directly affected by the reductions to social services or health care or education,” Ebarb says.
American Indian tribes get help from a variety of federal agencies that are dealing with the sequester. But Indian Health Services, under the Department of Health and Human Services, lost 5 percent of its budget. In Idaho, that means $20 million was cut on March 1. Ebarb says this could mean some patients will be turned away from clinics.
Meanwhile, tribal school districts in Idaho will have to make difficult decisions for next fall. Ebarb says the sequester could mean choices like cuts to transportation for students in rural areas, or losing assistant teacher positions.
But she says sequestration does more than just threaten education and health care funding.
“It violates the trust and treaty rights to Indian tribes," says Ebarb. "Not only is it devastating economically, it also undermines the solemn agreements that have been made between the U.S. government and [American] Indian tribes.”
Tribal leaders are figuring out exactly what cuts to programs such as Head Start will mean in the coming months. Ebarb is hopeful Congress will end the sequester before it reverses the economic progress made by American Indians in the last two decades.
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