The White House confirmed February 18 that it has backed off its request last year to Congress to cap contract support costs (CSC) owed to tribes for services provided to tribal citizens by tribal contractors.
“The administration will fully fund contract support costs for federally-recognized tribes in 2014,” said a White House official. “Last fall’s FY 2014 continuing resolution funded the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) contract support costs at the agencies’ estimates of full costs. Based on the funding provided in the FY 2014 omnibus, which was enacted in January, both BIA and IHS will fund CSCs at the agencies’ estimates of full costs.
“The administration is working with BIA and IHS to develop a long-term accounting and budget strategy to address CSCs in consultation with tribes,” the White House official added.
In terms of hard numbers, the IHS budget obligates $587 million to fund CSC in full this year, which is $139.6 million more than had been appropriated in fiscal year 2013.
It was initially unclear on February 18 whether the BIA has budgeted sufficient funding to fully fund CSC this year, according to tribal advocates. That’s because the BIA budgeted its CSC funding requirement based on its April 30, 2012 submission to Congress. That submission was based on a $230 million cap, which was reported at the time to be $12 million short of the full $242 million requirement.
After this question was raised, an official with the White House Office of Management and Budget told Indian Country Today Media Network that the BIA is indeed fully funding CSC in fiscal year 2014.
Congress members on both sides of the aisle seem pleased.
“The agencies’ decision represents much more than a victory for the many tribal healthcare providers who will receive full compensation for fiscal year 2014; it also represents a large step forward for improving the health and well-being of our nation’s first peoples,” said Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, in a statement.
“For far too long, the federal government has failed its obligation to allocate the financial resources that these providers are due, which has meant that many American Indians and Alaska Natives have been shortchanged when it comes to receiving the high quality healthcare that they are entitled to,” Young added. “Tribal health programs have always been underfunded, and it is time for our federal government to hold up its end of the bargain.”
“Today’s announcement marks a major shift for the federal government, which for decades has significantly underfunded these contract obligations by millions of dollars,” according to a press release from the office of Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
Two recent Supreme Court decisions that said the federal government must fully reimburse tribal CSC preceded the administration’s action.