|February 28, 2013
CSKT Tribes - like others – brace for the full impacts of sequestration
As the federal budget March deadline looms, the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes, like the rest of the nation, is bracing for budget sequestration impact. Congress needs to reach an agreement on a balanced deficit reduction plan and avoid draconian across the board cuts. However, with the deadline only days away, all federal agencies are preparing for devastating impacts.
President Obama has stated repeatedly that sequester is bad policy. Sequestration is an across-the-board reduction that slashes activities without discretion, and it will reduce the level of direct services that federal agencies provide to the American public. If implemented, it will have a wide range of long-term destructive consequences for federally funded programs and the nationwide safety net.
The Department of the Interior (DOI) is planning for the sequestration including implementing hiring freezes, reducing overtime, reducing travel, eliminating conferences, reducing training, reducing contracts, reducing cooperative agreements, and reducing grants. In addition, thousands of permanent DOI employees may be furloughed. The specific numbers of employees and the duration of furloughs will vary from bureau to bureau and program to program.
Many seasonal employees within the Interior Department face a tough reality of furloughs, delayed employment starts, shortened employment periods, or not being hired at all. The Interior Department expects reductions in National Park hours and park employees who provide visitor services to millions of Americans, and perform vital field and scientific work.
The State of Montana is expecting an estimated loss of well over $12.8 million. If sequestration takes effect this year, the impacts on Montana this year alone could include:
• Teachers and Schools: Montana will lose approximately $1.54 million for primary and secondary education, which puts around 20 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition, about 2,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 20 fewer schools would receive funding.
• Work Study Jobs: About 80 fewer low income students in Montana would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and fewer students will get work study jobs that help them pay for college.
• Head Start: Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 200 children in Montana, reducing access to critical early education. The exact impact to the CSKT Head Start Program is unknown at this time.
• Child Care: Under state funded programs, up to 100 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to childcare subsidies.
• Nutrition Assistance for Seniors: The State of Montana would lose approximately $226,000 in funds that provide meals for Seniors.
The examples above are similar to the potential reductions that CSKT might see, if sequestration goes into effect.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) now calculates that budget sequestration will require an annual reduction of roughly five percent for nondefense programs and roughly eight percent for defense programs. Given that these cuts will be achieved over only seven months instead of 12, the effective percentage reductions will be approximately nine percent for nondefense programs.
IHS and Tribal hospitals and clinics would be forced to provide 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 804,000 fewer outpatient visits, undermining needed health care in Tribal communities.
CSKT Tribal leaders have advocated for Tribal funding and programs to be exempt from the effects of sequestration, due to the trust responsibility obligation to Tribes and the historic lower BIA funding levels overall.
In December 2012, Carole Lankford, Vice Chair, attended the 2012 White House Tribal Nations Conference and carried the message back to the President and Senior Officials. The CSKT message was to “urge the President to prioritize the needs of Indian people within his agenda and budget.” Since December 2012, CSKT leadership has advocated to Montana Senators “that Indian Country cannot afford to have federal budgets and services reduced by any percent.”
Many Tribal programs will be impacted under sequestration.
CSKT Tribal Forestry is experiencing possible funding reductions in FY 2013 due to changes in nationwide funding formulas related to hazard fuel reduction funding formulas. The Tribal Council has requested funding parity, the same as other natural resources agencies. The U.S. Forest Service receives $7.50 per acre and it is estimated the BIA receives $3.50 per acre. Council has raised the funding parity issue to the Presidential appointed “Secretarial Trust Commission” advocating for uniform funding parity, especially when dealing with revenue generating trust resources, such as Forestry.
As recently as last week, the Tribal Council urged no funding reductions to a forestry funding formula that is flawed and has not been field tested as to its true impacts.
The Kicking Horse Job Corp Center (KHJJCC) is experiencing the impacts of a Department of Labor (DOL) nationwide funding deficit of approximately $60 million. Between now and June 2013, the Center will experience a series of layoff’s as the nationwide system tries to curb spending to make up the $60 million over budget projection. Funding and staff reductions will be spread over all job corp training centers nation side as the DOL recoups the nationwide over expenditure.
Tribal Administration and the Tribal Council receive weekly updates on the funding issues and are remaining vigilant in their efforts to remind Congress that Indian Country should not bear the brunt of the budget deficit, when Indian country has been historically underfunded.