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Congress passes increases for burial assistance, scholarships, infrastructure improvements

Burial Assistance raised to $8,000, building remodels on the horizon and students who attend research universities will get a bump in scholarship money.

Appropriation bills approved by the Seventh Osage Nation Congress during the 2022 Hun-Kah Session include increases for two direct services, as well as infrastructure improvements.

On April 14, Congress approved an increase to the burial assistance service with the maximum benefit now increased to $8,000 from $5,000 per application for a deceased enrolled Osage member.

Bill ONCA 22-52 (sponsored by Congressman Eli Potts) passed unanimously “to amend the Burial Assistance Fund to increase the maximum benefit to $8,000” for each qualifying death.

Potts told Congress he sought the benefit increase to reflect trends in increased funeral and burial costs. According to a fiscal analysis of the bill, the National Funeral Directors Association reported in 2021 that the median cost of an adult funeral service with viewing and ceremony followed by burial in this region is $7,334 and the national median was $7,848.

Bill ONCA 22-42 (sponsored by Second Speaker Jodie Revard) is “an Act to amend ONCA 22-17 to authorize and appropriate an additional amount of $300,000 to the Executive Branch in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for a CARES Continuation project for the remodel of the Mid-Continent Building as a COVID-compliant central receiving facility.” The bill passed unanimously also on April 14.

The bill appropriates $300,000 in ARPA in addition to the initial $300,000 appropriation in ARPA funding already approved by Congress in bill ONCA 22-17 during the 11th Special Session held in October 2021.

Last year, the Nation purchased the former Mid-Continent building on Pawhuska’s south end just off State Highway 99. The Executive Branch is planning to renovate the building to become the Nation’s central receiving facility for delivery vehicles.

Congress also passed ONCA 22-50 (sponsored by Walker), which is “An Act to provide an appropriation $150,000 out of the General Fund of the Treasury to Osage County Rural Water District #5 for water system maintenance and improvements.

According to supporting documentation, the water district serves the rural Barnsdall and Bartlesville areas, including several Osage residences, the current Osage Casino Bartlesville location and the Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve. Bart Perrier, President of the Rural Water District #5, wrote to the Nation requesting financial assistance to help fund infrastructure improvements the district board is seeking to improve chlorination levels in the water.

With an 11-1 vote on April 18, Congress passed ONCA 21-106 (sponsored by Potts), which is “an Act to amend the Higher Education Scholarship Fund to increase the amount per credit hour at research universities” for scholarship recipients. Potts said the previous per credit hour for scholarship recipients at research universities is $346.50 and his research shows the current per credit hour cost is $388 and he sponsored ONCA 21-106 to reflect the increase.

Revard, the current chair of the Congressional Appropriations Committee, said she would be voting no on ONCA 21-206 because she is concerned with other government costs, expenses and increased budgets that would be coming for the 2023 fiscal year starting in October, adding she is a still a supporter of the Higher Education Scholarship program despite her vote.

“What our scholarship provides is not sufficient for the cost for our research university students, that is the reason for this bill,” Potts said before the vote. “It only corrects this one deficiency that we have,” he said, adding he’s reached out to the ON Education Department to discuss possible scholarship amount increases for trade school students at a later date.

Also on April 18, Congress passed ONCA 22-26 (Walker), which is “an Act to authorize and appropriate $750,000 of (ARPA) funds to the Executive Branch for a new COVID compliant Congressional building.

According to ONCA 22-26, the $750,000 will go toward pre-construction costs for a new building to house the Congressional Office and Legislative Branch offices. The current meeting and offices for the Legislative Branch are in the former First National Bank building now owned by the Nation.

After passage, the legislative bills were sent to Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear’s office for consideration of signature to take effect.

For more information on the Legislative Branch, filed legislative bills/ resolutions, session and committee meetings, visit: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/who-we-are/legislative-branch

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Benny Polaccahttps://osagenews.org
Benny Polacca started at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter and has covered various stories and events impacting the Osage Nation and Osage people. Polacca is part of the News team awarded the Native American Journalist Association’s Elias Boudinot Free Press Award in 2014 and other NAJA Media Awards and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter awards for news coverage and photography. Polacca is an Arizona State University graduate and participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. He previously worked at The Forum newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. region as the weeknight reporter.
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