|Tagged in: Untagged||Aug 23, 2011|
|Posted by: mc5247|
In June the Bureau of Economic Analysis presented its estimate of the GDP for the first quarter of 2011. According to that estimate the real GDP of the U.S. increased 0.47 of 1 percent over its level in the fourth quarter of 2010. The growth rate of the economy is volatile. And, while any increases in real GDP are welcome they are not sufficient to reduce the pool of unemployed millions of Americans, especially Native Americans.
Unfortunately, most tribal economies were in poor state even before the current recession started. Unemployment is as high as 50% in majority of the American native tribes. Average median household income on most reservations is less than 50% of that national average.
Tribal values are rooted in protecting the nature and land, yet it is perceived that their resources such as oil, gas and coals are the only path out of current poverty, tribes have tough choices to make, between their cultural and extraction. The pressure from oil and gas giants is putting unfair pressure of creating an economy that could destroys scared culture and values.
Many tribal governments lack the means to provide the basic necessities and infrastructure most US citizens outside the reservations take for granted, such as functional highways, affordable housing, plumbing, electricity and communication services. According to one study many reservations are still unable to provide basic phone service to 72% of their citizens
On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 to encounter direct response to the economic crisis. the Recovery Act provided $288 billion in tax cuts and benefits for millions of working families and businesses. The hundreds of American tribes designated share from the recovery act constituted less than 2% or $6.1 billion of total of sanctioned amount. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, USDA Rural Development received funding to support over $20 billion in projects. This article only focuses on opportunities provided outside the USDA. (for USDA program see http://www.indiancountryworks.org/webinars.cfm). The Tribal Government Economic Recovery Plan was targeted in improving infrastructure spending that supposed to allow tribes to effectively compete in the global economy. The budget provided an opportunity to invest building schools, building energy efficient homes, buildings , public safety facilities and repairing tribal roads and bridges, investments in clean and waste water facilities and health facilities through repairs and technology improvements.
The American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan’s targeted infrastructure development offered tribal government an opportunity to improve their failing infrastructure. Funding streams were made available for tribal governments to fully participate in building and repairing needed infrastructure.
Tribal governments simply needed to be directly funded under these programs as other governments were to ensure that they were not left out. Unfortunately, only 85% funds were claimed by Indian reservations. Even the distribution of the funds was not evenly handed. For instance in Montana Ft. Peck Sioux were awarded $70,198,049 where Blackfeet were awarded only $6,891,927, less than 10% of what Sioux received. Crow agency received over $12,546,659 during same period.
The Feds has an important role to play in ensuring that all who are eligible know about and could access these grants and loans with dignity and respect. Tribal governments are quite often an afterthought in the development of significant national policies. They are either inappropriately ‘shoe horned’ into legislation at the 11th hour, or left out all together. As a result, Indian nations are left beyond and farther behind.
The Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Plan offered a once in a lifetime opportunity for the tribal government, to create jobs, repair old infrastructure, and develop energy and create income. It would be a travesty for Indian nations who are persistently fraught with poverty, high unemployment, insufficient housing and infrastructure, and under-development economic to be left out of much of the potential opportunities created by the Economic Recovery Plan. Did tribes avail themselves of the opportunity? .........only history will decide.
Mat Chaudhry Ph.D (c)