Mark Begich: A permanent solution for contract support costs

The Kasaan Health Center in Kasaan, Alaska, a clinic that's part of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. Photo from Facebook

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) explains why he's introducing legislation to ensure tribes receive full contract support costs for their self-determination contracts:
After 20 years of litigation and two Supreme Court decisions in favor of tribes, the federal government is currently negotiating settlements of claims for unpaid contract support costs that total in the billions of dollars.

In 2014, Congress removed contract support cost spending caps and instructed BIA and IHS to fully pay tribes what they are due. This was a major step forward and I’m proud of the work to get these caps lifted.

But because they were not provided any additional funding to pay for these debts, BIA and IHS used discretionary funding that normally would have been directed towards other vital programs—in effect robbing Peter to pay Paul. Removing the caps shows progress but it is not a permanent solution nor does it guarantee full funding in the next Congress and beyond.

A permanent solution is necessary to ensure that full funding of contract support costs continues indefinitely and is not paid for by cuts to BIA and IHS programs. As the House and Senate appropriations committees recognized this year, until such a solution is enacted the Committees are “in the untenable position of appropriating discretionary funds for the payment of any legally obligated contract support costs.”

Get the Story:
Sen. Mark Begich: Tribal Contracts Must Be Honored—Permanently (Indian Country Today 7/29)

Federal Register Notices:
Contract Support Costs (April 8, 2014)
Contract Support Costs (February 21, 2014)

Relevant Documents:
FY14 Omnibus Text & Joint Explanatory Statement | Detailed Omnibus Summary | Subcommittee Allocations

Supreme Court Decisions:
Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter (June 18, 2012)
Cherokee Nation v. Leavitt:
Cherokee Nation v. Leavitt (March 1, 2005)

Related Stories:
IHS pays $53M to settle another contract support cost dispute (7/25)
Native Sun News: Great Plains tribes call for full contract funds (7/23)
IHS pays $29.5M to end contract dispute with Cherokee Nation (07/15)
ANTHC accepts $153M settlement in contract support cost case (07/01)
Michael Gross: Tribes must protect self-determination contracts (05/09)
IHS pays $275M to settle claims for back contract support costs (05/02)
Opinion: Funds for contract support costs should be mandatory (05/02)
IHS resolves some contract support costs claims for $200M (4/28)
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigns (04/11)
BIA and IHS hold another consultation on contract support costs (04/08)
Mark Begich: Pay back tribes for overdue contract support costs (03/03)
BIA and IHS schedule consultation about contract support costs (02/21)
BIA and IHS agree to fully fund contract support costs for 2014 (2/18)
Budget bill urges solution to contract support cost battle (01/15)

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