Indian Reservations Fear Potential Impact Of Second Government Shutdown

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The government shutdown that was triggered just before Christmas left almost a million federal employees working without pay or furloughed, unsure of when they would see their next paycheck. After 35 days, with no deal in sight from House Democrats to give President Donald Trump the $5.7 billion he wanted for the border wall, an agreement was struck to temporarily reopen government until February 15 while negotiations continued.

The deadline for the temporary opening of government is now looming like a dark cloud over everyone’s heads, with still no satisfactory deal in sight. This means there is a strong likelihood of a second government shutdown on the heels of the first, and those who rely on federal income to survive are concerned about what this might mean for them.

The list of people who are impacted includes those living on Indian Reservations in South Dakota, according to Kelo Land. The publication reports that “about 75 percent of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s budget depends on federal funds,” which would leave them in serious danger should another shutdown occur.

So many living on the reservations in the region rely on the Commodity Food Distribution Program, which receives its funding from the federal government. During the previous shutdown, the lives of many on the reservation were at the mercy of serious delays.

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“That caused food shortages here, where our participants had to come pick up a second time — the food they didn’t get the first time. And that’s more money for gas. A lot of people hire rides,” director Ruth Reifel said.

Tribal President Rodney Bordeaux also added, “We do not get a monthly check. Our people get food stamps; some of them may qualify for TANF.”

Reservations are allocated funds from the federal government based on treaty rights, but some tribes were left without over $1 million they would otherwise have received during the last shutdown. The Indian Health Service (IHS) was also taking a strain, with many regular patients needing attention relying on the government-funded program to survive. Even with that funding, the organization estimates only 40 percent of its needs are accounted for to provide their service.

Many people living on the reservations are also federal employees and had to go without pay during the shutdown on top of the sudden loss of resources provided to the tribes.

Given the threat of an imminent second shutdown, many tribal leaders are concerned that this time around things will only get worse, leaving them without food again for weeks or even months if they are cut off from their federal funding.