Osage Nation programs being affected by the continuing resolution that holds down the Nation’s spending to one-twelfth of the 2009 fiscal year levels have spoken, and it’s not good.
“Right now, the staff at the Osage Nation Social Services Department are all feeling a bit like George Bailey [from It’s a Wonderful Life] because they are faced with the reality of looking at a Christmas without adequate funding to serve Osage children in tribal custody, Osage children in pre-adoptive placements, Osage children on the Family Preservation Program caseload, and Osage children identified as needy during child welfare investigations this past year,” said an article on the Social Services Department’s site on osagetribe.com.
“Another thing to remember is these kids are where they are today through no fault of their own.”
Programs such as the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), the Osage Nation Police Department and many more have all published stories on how the one-twelfth restriction is affecting their departments.
WIC, the only WIC office in Osage County, currently serves more than 2,700 Osages as well as non-Osage participants and the number grows every day. WIC is a federally funded program and since they have received the grants to provide the services to Osage County residents the State of Oklahoma does not have a WIC office in the county.
“Now what’s to say that with all of this mess with Congress, the funding agency and the State of Oklahoma agree that we can no longer manage these funds and we lose this grant?” Harris wrote in the article. “What will happen to the ability to order special formulas for special needs children?”
The TANF program published two anonymous letters from some of their employees with a similar situation.
“On a daily basis our office is flooded with calls from people in desperate situations asking us for help and we have to tell them that we can not help them at this time,” wrote a TANF employee. “We have one crisis family that is homeless; they do not know what they are going to do for Christmas, better yet where they are going to sleep each night.”
The Osage Nation Police Department is having their problems with the one-twelfth restriction with having exceeded the amount to pay for the incarceration of adult prisoners; they’re unable to purchase new equipment to replace old or broken radios and other equipment and they’re unable to send officers to training in accordance with State law because their certifications have to be up to date to make arrests.
“If the price of fuel (which we have no control) exceeds our monthly 1/12th restriction (not to mention possible costly body damage repairs) we could lose our fuel contract with Wright Express,” said the article on ONPD’s site. “This could severely disrupt our ability to purchase fuel during the officer’s shift and decrease our ability to patrol.”
The Osage Nation Congress has called the one-twelfth restriction a “band-aid” and a “temporary fix” while they prepare to go over the Nation’s budgets again next week. Both Congress and Osage Nation Principal Chief Jim Gray have blamed each other for the situation the programs are currently in.
However, an e-mail sent by Congresswoman Debra Atterberry to her fellow members of Congress today had a different tone.
“I listened to this morning's short session and heard Congressman [William] Supernaw's concerned comments regarding the employee Christmas bonus. He stated that the Congress has done everything we can to allow the bonuses to be paid out to the employees,” Atterberry wrote. “I disagree. We haven't passed the budget - - we're the problem!”
Chief Gray sent out an Executive Message detailing exactly what would be affected by the one-twelfth restriction today, to view the report click below: