President Donald Trump signs a proclamation dismantling the Bears Ears National Monument in Salt Lake City, Utah, on December 4, 2017. Photo: Tami A. Heilemann / U.S. Department of the Interior
National | Politics

Tribal employment measure officially presented to President Trump for his signature




Tribes are watching the White House as President Donald Trump is presented with his first stand-alone Indian bill.

H.R.228, the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act, was formally sent to the White House on Wednesday. All that's needed for it to become law is Trump's signature.

"This is an important win for Native American communities," Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), the Speaker of the House, said in a post on Twitter as he and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the sponsor of H.R.228, put the final touches on the measure.

"Congress passed legislation empowering tribes to create essential education and training opportunities through the 477 Program," added Ryan, whose spouse is a descendant of the Chickasaw Nation, according to a family member.

The bill makes a number of improvements to what is commonly known in Indian Country as the 477 program, whose name comes the federal law which first authorized it. Tribes can combine employment, education and training-related grants into a single plan, with a single budget and a single reporting system, making it easier to manage the funds and help their citizens.

Currently, tribes can draw on funds from Johnson-O'Malley, Tribal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and other key programs at the Department of the Interior, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor. H.R.228 expands 477 to include nearly every other federal agency, including the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice.

“This historic passage occurred after eight years of tribal advocacy,” President Richard Peterson of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska noted in a press release.

Peterson's tribe was the first to take advantage of the 477 program after it became law in 1992. Funds are used to help tribal citizens in southeast Alaska find jobs and improve their skills and education levels.

“The passage of this bill affirms the sovereignty and wisdom of tribes to serve their citizens in a way that ensures the highest likelihood of long-term success,” said William Martin, the director of the tribe's 477 division. “The passage makes permanent a system that has proven to be very effective in guiding our low income individuals and families to independence and self-sufficiency."

H.R.228 is the first stand-alone Indian bill to clear both the House and the Senate since the start of the 115th Congress in January. There were no hearings on it because prior versions had advanced in prior sessions so the Trump administration never gave a formal position on it.

Trump, though, promised to adopt policies to "enhance economic well-being of Native American communities" in his first Native American Heritage Month proclamation. He also said he would "always come to the aid of Native American people in times of crisis."

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