Community , Government

Partial government shutdown will have little effect on Osage Nation

Just in time for the holidays: a partial shutdown of the federal government.  

As of 6 p.m. Central Standard Time on Dec. 21, Congress and President Donald Trump have not reached an agreement on how to fund the federal government, thus keeping all of its offices and programs open through the closing days of 2018.

On Dec. 20, the Osage Nation executive branch confirmed to Osage News that the treasurer’s office made the necessary drawdowns of federal funds in advance in order to keep programs open in the event of a shutdown.           

Among the nine federal departments directly impacted by the potential shutdown are the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice and Transportation.

Although Indian Health Services is considered part of the Department of Health and Human Services, it is budgeted through the appropriations bill for the Department of Interior, so some of its operations are subject to the shutdown as well.

Operations at direct care IHS facilities, such as Claremore Indian Hospital, will continue as normal, as will contract health referrals. However, more than half of the IHS budget is committed to urban Indian clinics, non-profit organizations, and tribally-operated facilities, which the department cannot cover without federal funds.

U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Oklahoma) filed legislation on Dec. 20 to provide funding for tribally-run hospitals and urban Indian clinics in the event the shutdown goes into 2019. However, as of 5 p.m. Dec. 21, that measure has not been scheduled for a committee hearing.

“The Indian Health Service is not only terribly underfunded, but it is one of the only health care agencies that doesn’t receive mandatory or advanced appropriations,” the Cherokee Nation citizen said. “Native Americans deserve quality, reliable health care services as promised in treaties with the federal government. My bill, which would provide a stable source of funding for IHS through the fiscal year 2019, is a good start.”

The USDA confirmed Friday afternoon that its nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Women Infants and Children, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations and school meals will continue through a shutdown and January benefits will not be interrupted. However, additional funds will not be made available to providers until the shutdown ends.

Among the USDA programs scheduled to start shutting down operations immediately are payments and administration of new rural development loans, as well as grants for community facilities, utilities and businesses.

Also tucked into the stalled continuing resolution was language to extend the provisions of the 2013 edition of the Violence Against Women Act. With the resolution going unsigned and the Department of Justice going unfunded, grant checks through the Office of Violence Against Women will be withheld until the shutdown is over.

Despite the funding inaction, spokeswomen for both the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and Strong Hearts Domestic Violence Hotline confirmed that the tribal provisions of VAWA will still remain in place.

Under the terms of VAWA’s 2013 reauthorization, tribes may exercise special criminal jurisdiction over non-Natives who violate a protective order or commit an act of domestic or dating violence against a tribal citizen within the tribe’s jurisdictional area.    

The expanded tribal provisions do not extend to crimes committed by a stranger, child abuse cases that do not involve a violated protective order, offenses committed on non-tribal land or to potentially related crimes outside VAWA’s scope, such as robbery, identity theft, drug possession or child abuse. 

So far, 18 tribes nationally have updated their legal codes to accommodate the special criminal jurisdiction language in the 2013 edition.

To date, only one reauthorization bill has been filed this year. Authored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), the proposed 2018 version has 154 co-sponsors. As currently worded, the measure would maintain the expanded tribal provisions. It would also provide even more federal funding for rape crisis centers and allow for law enforcement officers to remove weapons from people who are the subject of a protective order or are convicted of domestic abuse or stalking.