President Biden is continuing to ensure the Federal government honors its commitment to Tribal Nations and Native communities. Under his leadership, the Administration has deployed record investments to Tribal Nations and Native communities, including through the American Rescue Plan, the largest direct federal investment in Indian Country in history, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the largest single investment in infrastructure for Indian Country ever.
Over the past two years, the Administration has taken additional steps to improve and standardize Tribal consultation in recognition of Tribal communities’ inherent sovereignty; expand protections for Tribal victims under the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022; develop new public safety and justice strategies for Native communities, including to address the epidemic of missing or murdered Indigenous people; and secure—for the first time in history—advance appropriations for the Indian Health Service, which will ensure a more predictable funding stream and improve health outcomes across Indian Country.
The President’s Budget—informed by direct consultation with Tribal leaders—continues to demonstrate the President’s commitment through historic investments in the Indian Health Service, Tribal public safety, affordable housing, education, and more. The Budget:
- Advances Health Equity for American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Administration is committed to upholding the United States’ trust responsibility to Tribal nations by addressing the historical underfunding of the Indian Health Service. The enactment of an advance appropriation for 2024 for IHS was a historic and welcome step towards the goal of securing adequate and stable funding to improve the overall health status of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Building on the advance appropriation, the Budget requests an additional $3 billion in 2024 for a total of $8.1 billion in discretionary resources. In addition, the Budget reclassifies contract support costs and leases as mandatory for a total of $9.4 billion in discretionary and mandatory resources for IHS in 2024. The Budget proposes all IHS resources as mandatory beginning in 2025.
- Makes Historic Investments in Tribal Communities Through the Department of the Interior. The Administration is committed to upholding the Federal Government’s trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal nation and Native communities. Building on feedback from extensive Tribal consultations, the Budget provides $4.7 billion for DOI’s Tribal programs, more than $690 million above the 2023 enacted level, including investments that would support public safety and justice, social services, and educational needs to uphold Federal trust responsibilities and advance equity for Native communities. The Budget also reclassifies contract support costs and leases at DOI as mandatory in 2024.
- Invests in Tribal Infrastructure and Affordable Housing. Native Americans are seven times more likely to live in overcrowded conditions and five times more likely to have inadequate plumbing, kitchen, or heating systems than other U.S. households. The Budget provides over $1 billion to fund Tribal efforts to expand affordable housing, improve housing conditions and infrastructure, and increase economic opportunities for low-income families. Of this total, $150 million would prioritize activities that advance resilience and energy efficiency in housing-related projects. The Budget also reflects a reduction in mortgage insurance fees for the Indian Housing Loan Guarantee Program, which will save Native American borrowers over $500 on average in their first year and expand access to homeownership.
- Supports Tribal Law Enforcement and Public Safety and Addresses the Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons. For the Department of Justice, the Budget provides $4.9 billion in discretionary resources for State and local grants and $30 billion in mandatory resources to support State, local, and Tribal efforts to protect U.S. communities and promote public safety. This includes $537 million for the COPS Hiring Program discretionary topline, an increase of $213 million or 66 percent over the 2023 enacted level. The Budget provides $717 million in Tribal Public Safety and Justice funding at DOI, an $86 million increase over the 2023 enacted level, to support pressing public safety needs in Indian Country, including continuing efforts to address the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons.
- Creates Jobs in Tribal Communities Building Clean Energy Infrastructure. The Budget invests $4.5 billion in clean energy across America, bringing jobs to rural communities and cities, leaving no one behind. The Budget supports clean energy workforce development and sustainable infrastructure projects across the country, including $1.8 billion to weatherize and retrofit low-income Americans’ homes and $83 million to electrify Tribal homes and transition Tribal Colleges and Universities to renewable energy.
- Advances Environmental Justice in Indian Country. The Administration continues to prioritize efforts to deliver environmental justice in Tribal communities across the United States, including meeting the President’s Justice40 Initiative to ensure that 40 percent of the overall benefits of Federal investments in climate and clean energy reach disadvantaged communities, including rural and Tribal communities. The Budget bolsters these efforts by investing nearly $1.8 billion at EPA across numerous programs that will support securing environmental justice for communities that bear the brunt of toxic pollution and climate change. In addition, through the Army Corps of Engineers, the Budget provides $35 million to help disadvantaged and Tribal communities address their water resources challenges through technical and planning assistance, $13 million for the Tribal Partnership program, and $58 million to support Tribal access to legally recognized historic fishing areas.
- Improves College Affordability and Expands Institutional Capacity for Tribal Colleges and Universities. To help low- and middle-income students overcome financial barriers to postsecondary education, including students across Indian Country, the Budget proposes to increase the discretionary maximum Pell Grant by $500—helping more than 6.8 million students pay for college, building on successful bipartisan efforts to increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $900 over the past two years, and laying out a path to double the award by 2029. The Budget also invests mandatory and discretionary funding to expand free community college, and provides mandatory funding for two years of subsidized tuition for students from families earning less than $125,000 enrolled in a participating four-year Historically Black College or University (HBCU), Tribally-Controlled College or University (TCCU), or Minority-Serving Institution (MSI). Additionally, the Budget increases institutional capacity at HBCUs, TCCUs, MSIs, and low-resourced institutions, including community colleges, by providing an increase of $429 million above the 2023 enacted level. This significant funding includes $350 million for four-year HBCUs, TCCUs, and MSIs to expand research and development infrastructure at these institutions.
- Prioritizes Efforts to End Gender-Based Violence. The Budget proposes $1 billion to support implementation of programs through the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA), which was recently reauthorized and strengthened in 2022. The Budget supports substantial increases for longstanding VAWA programs, including key investments in legal assistance for victims, transitional housing, and sexual assault services, including the Tribal Sexual Assault Services Program. The Budget will increase funding for the Tribal Governments Program and strongly supports underserved and Tribal communities by providing $35 million for culturally-speciﬁc services, $10 million for underserved populations, $15 million to assist enforcement of Tribal special domestic violence jurisdiction, and $3 million to support Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys. The Budget also includes $519 million for the Family Violence Prevention and Services (FVPSA) program and the National Domestic Violence Hotline to support domestic violence survivors—double the 2023 enacted level.
- Connects Indian Country to High-Speed, Affordable, and Reliable Internet. The President is committed to ensuring that every American—including all of Indian Country—has access to high-speed internet. Installing high-speed internet creates high-paying union jobs and strengthens rural economies, which leads to higher property values, increased job and population growth, lower unemployment rates and new business formation. Reliable internet is also crucial for rural Americans to access healthcare services through telehealth. Building on the $2 billion for Tribal broadband grants at NTIA and the $2 billion rural broadband programs at USDA provided in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Budget provides $400 million for USDA’s ReConnect program, which provides grants and loans to deploy broadband to unserved areas, especially Tribal areas. With the funding provided in BIL, USDA has provided nearly $548 million to people living and working across 21 States and Territories, which is expected to expand access to 43,189 households.
- Commits to Tribal Water Rights Settlements Funding. Providing a stable, dedicated funding source for Indian water rights settlements is crucial to ensuring that Tribal communities have safe, reliable water supplies to improve public and environmental health and support economic opportunity. To build on investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Budget provides $2.8 billion in mandatory funding to the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund, with $2.5 billion to cover the costs of enacted and future water rights settlements, and $340 million for operations and maintenance costs associated with enacted water settlements.
- Supports Economic Opportunity in Rural and Tribal Communities. The Budget provides $32 million to expand the Rural Partners Network (RPN), an all-of-government program led by USDA that partners with rural and Tribal communities to access resources and funding to create local jobs, build infrastructure, and support long-term economic stability on their own terms. Through RPN, USDA is hiring new full-time federal staff who are from the region to work hand in hand with RPN community leaders.
These investments build on the Administration’s efforts to date to uphold America’s trust and treaty responsibilities with Tribal Nations:
- Secured the Reauthorization of the Landmark Violence Against Women Act. On March 15, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act, which expanded the recognition of special criminal jurisdiction of Tribal courts to cover non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse, stalking, sex trafficking, and assaults on Tribal law enforcement officers on Tribal lands; and supports the development of a pilot project to enhance access to safety for survivors in Alaska Native villages. The bipartisan funding bill the President signed in December 2022 included $700 million for the Violence Against Women Act, the highest funding level in history for the landmark law.
- Provided the Most Support Ever for Tribal Communities. Through the American Rescue Plan, the Administration invested $32 billion in Tribal Nations and Native communities, the largest single financial assistance investment to Tribal governments in history. The investments supported expanding healthcare, access to temporary housing, assistance, and supportive services to survivors of domestic and dating violence, as well as supplemental funding for the StrongHearts Native Helpline, and additional funding for services for sexual assault survivors. The President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is rebuilding Tribal roads, bridges and rails; expanding access to clean drinking water for Native communities; helping ensure every Native American has access to high-speed internet; tackling the climate crisis; advancing environmental justice; and investing in Tribal communities that have too often been left behind. It does so by investing more than $13 billion directly in Tribal communities across the country. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also makes Tribal communities eligible for billions more in much-needed investments. The Inflation Reduction Act takes the most aggressive action on climate and clean energy in American history – and it does so by providing funding specifically for Tribes to plan for and adapt to climate change, mitigate drought, support fisheries, and shift to clean energy production and use.
- Made Tribal Consultation an Administration Priority. In his first days in office, the President issued a memorandum making it a priority of his Administration to make respect for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance, commitment to fulfilling Federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, and regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal Nations cornerstones of Federal Indian policy. Since then, the Administration has been regularly meeting with Tribal Nations on a range of Administration priorities, from implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to drafting the President’s Budget. To further strengthen consultation as a priority, at the 2022 Tribal Nations Summit, the President established uniform standards for conducting Tribal consultations across all agencies – and required annual training for all Federal agency staff working with Tribal Nations or on policies with Tribal implications. The Budget also proposes $20 million for the Economic Development Administration within the Department of Commerce to advance the agency’s commitment to increase outreach and support for Indigenous communities, with a particular focus on supporting awareness and technical assistance for financial assistance opportunities.
- Implemented Tribal Co-Management and Co-Stewardship of Federal Lands and Waters. President Biden has recognized the importance of increasing Tribal participation in the management and stewardship of federal lands and waters of significance to Tribal communities. In 2021, USDA and DOI committed to Tribal co-stewardship, including through written co-stewardship agreements with Tribal Nations. In 2022, they delivered on this commitment: in total, USDA Forest Service and DOI signed over 20 new co-stewardship agreements with Tribes to further co-stewardship goals. In late 2022, the Department of Commerce announced that it will formally join in these co-stewardship efforts. This commitment furthers a whole-of-government approach to co-stewardship, and ensures that additional agencies—like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—will further co-stewardship goals in their management of waters, fisheries, and other resources of significance and value to Tribes.
- Strengthened Implementation of the Buy Indian Act. President Biden committed to strengthening implementation of the Buy Indian Act, which provides special federal contracting preferences for DOI and HHS to procure supplies, services, and construction from Native-owned businesses. The federal government is the largest purchaser of goods and services in the country, buying everything from software and building construction to financial and asset management—making its procurement a powerful tool to advance equity and build wealth in underserved communities. At the 2022 Tribal Nations Summit, DOI announced its goal of awarding 75% of contract dollars from Indian Affairs (including Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and Bureau of Trust Funds Administration) and 10% of contract dollars across the rest of the Department to Native-owned businesses, using its authority under the Buy Indian Act. The Indian Health Service (IHS) is announcing its goal of 20%. These targets will raise Buy Indian Act utilization rates at the agencies, result in hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in Indian Country, and advance the President’s effort to increase the share of government-wide contract dollars going to small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs) by 50% by 2025.