Senate passes bill to update tribal employment grant program

The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska are among the tribes that participate in the 477 Program. Photo from Facebook

A measure to update a key tribal employment grant program cleared the Senate by unanimous consent on Thursday.

S.1443, the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act, amends the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992, commonly known as Public Law 477. The bill makes a number of reforms to enhance tribal and Alaska Native participation in the program.

“The 477 program has proven to be an innovative and effective tool in providing education and training opportunities aimed to improve the quality of life in every region of Alaska, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who introduced S.1433 in May 2015, said in a press release. "I am proud the Senate has recognized the importance of this program to support self-sufficiency, create jobs, and expand employment opportunities for American Indians and Alaska Natives nationwide.”

According to the Department of Labor, the 477 program allows tribes and Alaska Native entities to combine employment, education and training-related grants into a single plan, with a single budget and a single reporting system. It can include funds from Johnson-O'Malley, Tribal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and other programs.

“Unemployment is disproportionately high in tribal communities,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a press release. "The Senate passed a bill that will empower tribes to expand employment and training programs. I want to thank Senator Murkowski for championing this common sense legislation that will have an immediate impact."

The House version of the bill is H.R.329. It was one of the first to receive a hearing before the House Subcommittee Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs and, while it has been approved by the House Committee on Natural Resources, it has not been brought up for consideration on the floor.

"I urge the House of Representatives to take this bill up and pass it soon," Barrasso said.

The House could pass S.1443 or take action on H.R.329.

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