BILLINGS, Mont. — Disruptions to some services for elderly American Indians and other needy residents of reservations could linger despite the end of the government shutdown, tribal officials said.
It could take weeks to get backed-up funds flowing to tribal programs that are under contract with the federal government, officials said. And for many reservations, the headaches brought on by the shutdown only compounded difficulties posed by budget cuts that kicked in even before the impasse in Congress shut off payments entirely.
“When things like this happen, it usually trickles down to the poorest of the poor, and Native Americans, per capita, are in the lowest spectrum of income in the U.S.,” said Brian Cladoosby, president-elect of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of Washington state’s Swinomish Tribe.
“D.C. has to get their act together. They have to quit running the government by chaos,” he said.
There are more than 560 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. In addition to direct federal assistance for foster care, health, education and other programs, many of them rely on the U.S. government to oversee and disburse revenues generated by reservation activities such as oil and gas development. Those funds, too, were tied up by the shutdown because the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs lacked the manpower to process payments.