Congress continues to negotiate the framework of President Biden’s Build Back Better (“BBB”) initiative and closes in on a final vote of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (“BIF”).
While the Infrastructure package includes strong provisions to rebuild Indian Country’s transportation and water systems, broadband connectivity, and climate resilience, several lawmakers report concerns that tribal provisions in the BBB package are facing disparate cuts as Congress finalizes that package, which will advance under the budget reconciliation process.
The BBB Budget Reconciliation bill focuses on President Biden’s domestic social policies to address education, healthcare, and the climate crisis. The current package includes proposals to establish universal pre-K education, extend of the Child Tax Credit, Children Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”) and Pell grants, strengthen the Affordable Care Act, expand Medicaid and Medicare, provides funding for affordable housing, and provisions to address climate change.
Indian Country has lagged far behind the rest of the nation in each of these critical issue areas. The staggering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Native Nations laid bare the longstanding shortfalls in the Indian healthcare system. The lack of housing was a primary reason the virus spread throughout tribal communities. In terms of education, the lack of broadband and funding for Indian education made it nearly impossible for Native children to learn remotely.
From the climate change perspective, Native communities from all corners of Indian Country have been disparately impacted from wildfires, Superfund and related toxic waste sites, and rising waters that have forced many tribal communities to seek higher ground to survive. Federally approved acts of environmental injustice have destroyed our sacred places and cultural landscapes and continue to threaten the air, water, and environmental health of Native communities.
The Build Back Better initiative seeks to transform the social, economic, and environmental system in the United States. We must ensure that each of the provisions and proposals in the final Build Back Better package includes robust provisions and set-asides that provide direct funding to tribal governments.
The BBB is moving through the unusual budget reconciliation process, which requires only votes from the majority party. As a result, we urge you to consider reaching out to congressional leaders and the White House to ensure that Indian Country is not left behind.
Enclosed is a draft letter for your consideration. Please make sure to share your correspondence with your individual U.S. Senators and Representatives.
Please contact Danielle Her Many Horses at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns with this alert.