The proposed 2018 budget is raising alarm among Native Americans, according to an article in Voanews.com, the news website of Voice of America. The budget would drastically cut or eliminate agencies and programs that provide critical services to about 2.2 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The proposed cuts include the following:
- > $300 million from the Bureau of Indian Affairs
- 31.4% from the Environmental Protection Agency
- 18% from HHS, which houses IHS
- 13.5% from the Department of Education
- 13.2% from Housing and Urban Development
The proposed budget also would eliminate programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). In 2016, 150 tribal groups and > 43,000 Native households received LIHEAP funds. In Alaska, the Essential Air Service, often the only route to health care in remote areas, also is slated to be cut.
Mark Trahant, journalist, academic, and member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes, pointed out that “In Indian Country, more than half of all Indian kids who go through Indian Health Service have their insurance through Medicaid. Thirteen percent of Medicaid is Indian care.”
Fawn Sharp, president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, called the proposed cuts “illogical and unreasonable.” They are “cutting into the bone and fail to recognize very real and critically important needs,” she said at a tribal conference.
Lawmakers from states with large Native American populations, including Tom Udall (D-NM), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Tom Cole (R-OK) a member of the Chickasaw Nation, are speaking against the proposals. Cole says the budget shows the administration “doesn’t care very much about Indian health care.”
However, Trahant notes that releasing the budget is only the first step in a potentially long process, and says it is now up to Congress to rework it.