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Agency leaders detail effects of sequester on Indian programs

Sequestration of the federal budget will have a negative impact in Indian Country, members of the Obama administration told the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Indian Health Service will see 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 840,000 fewer outpatient visits, Health and Human Services Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. Budget cuts will ripple to tribal-administered facilities, she added.

"IHS may lack resources to pay for the staffing and operations of five health care facilities that tribes have built with their own resources, with a total tribal investment of almost $200 million," Sebelius said in a letter to the committee.

Tribes will lose about $130 million in funding, Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar said. Indian education and general assistance for the neediest people on reservations are due to take a hit.

"Payments would stop to approximately 2,400 needy Indians for each month the general assistance program is shut down," Salazar wrote.

"The Bureau of Indian Affairs schools would have the choice of reducing staff, services, or the number of days in the school year," he added.

At the Education Department, Secretary Arne Duncan said the Impact Aid program will see an immediate loss of $60 million. The program helps schools located on or near reservations.

In testimony before the committee yesterday, Duncan said "the Gallup-McKinley County Public Schools in Gallup, New Mexico, would lose nearly $2 million of the funds the district receives from the Impact Aid program to help meet the educational needs of 7,500 federally connected children, including 6,700 who live on Indian lands. This impact is severe, given that Impact Aid funds make up 35 percent of the district’s total budget."

Relevant Documents:
Letters and Webcast: The Impacts of Sequestration (February 14, 2013)

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