Budget Fight Could Close Some Indian Housing Authorities

Some smaller Indian Housing Authorities (IHAs) may have to close if a proposed $200 million reduction in federal aid to American Indian housing is signed into law, tribal leaders told Indian Country Today Media Network.

Mellor Willie, executive director of the National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC), and Cheryl Causley, NAIHC chair, said the proposed cut to $500 million for fiscal 2011 from $700 million in fiscal 2010 is one of the largest cuts in HR1, the “continuing resolution” that has been at the center of the Washington budget-cutting battle that threatens to shut the federal government.

IHAs and TDHEs (tribally designated housing entities) have been hampered this year already as the lack of a budget agreement means they have been able to draw down just 25% of their fiscal 2011 housing assistance (President Obama proposed $580 million for fiscal 2011), said Willie, Navajo, and Causley, Bay Mills.

IHAs and TDHEs will also suffer if there is a government shutdown, which would scale back government work to emergency services only and stall Indian housing, the leaders said. There may also be layoffs, said Causley. “No one wants to see a government shutdown,” she said.

While tribes did get an extra $500 million in housing assistance from the federal stimulus, only a very small amount could be used to support tribal housing staff. “There is definitely a capacity squeeze,” she said, which would worsen if housing aid is cut.

NAIHC is asking tribes and tribal housing entities to lobby Congress for the return of the $700 million amount, going so far as to calculate how much each tribe would be cut if the continuing resolution is made law. “We need them to tell them we can’t afford that kind of cut,” she said.

The tribal leaders said there was a possibility the cut could be reversed. “We have our allies on the House side and the Senate side,” said Willie. “They’ve been working to try to increase the number.”

Budget cuts shouldn’t be made “on the backs of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Causley.

President Obama has proposed $700 million for Indian housing in fiscal 2012, a sharp increase since his 2011 proposal of $580 million. Causley suggested some of the change could be traced to Administration budget officials visiting Indian country to see the horrible housing conditions on many reservations. The officials went to the Pine Ridge, Rosebud and Cheyenne River Sioux reservations in South Dakota.

“We’d like to get members of the Appropriations Committee to go out to Indian country,” Causley said.

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Budget Fight Could Close Some Indian Housing Authorities

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