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Begich Champions More than $800 Million for Tribal Contract Support Costs

Bill Will Support Alaska Volcano Research, Clean Up Contaminated Lands

U.S. Senator Mark Begich is pleased that more than $800 million to pay Alaska Native and American Indian contract support costs is included in the draft fiscal year 2015 Senate Interior Appropriations Bill announced today.

It is an issue he has championed since his first days in the Senate and as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

The bill includes $617 million for Indian Health Services (IHS) contract support costs and $246 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) contract support costs.  These funds will be used to pay tribes for self-governance contracts and compacts under the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act. The bill also includes $85 million for IHS staffing and operating costs for healthcare facilities, which will support staffing costs for IHS facilities in Alaska.

“In Alaska, we know health outcomes are better when patients receive services in a culturally appropriate and familiar environment,” said Begich. “In the past, failure to pay these costs, which include necessary administrative and overhead costs, meant that tribes were forced to either reduce essential governmental services to their people or subsidize federal programs with scarce tribal funding. Today’s bill means that tribes will get the funding they deserve for the care they deliver.”

(Click to see video - Sen. Begich forces the issue of contract costs with IHS Acting Director Roubideaux during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in April 2013.)

Begich represents 229 federally recognized tribes and has been one of the most outspoken and diligent leaders in Congress on tribal heath issues, including his work on contract support costs. His work in the Senate includes playing an instrumental role in securing full contract support cost (CSC) funding in 2014 and he has been pressuring Congress to fully fund CSC in 2015. Begich’s recent work to secure contract support cost funding has been noted in articles in Indian Country Today Media and a recent op-ed Tribal Contracts Must Be Honored—Permanently.

More information on legislation Begich introduced last week to ensure tribes get the contract support costs funding they are due can be found here.

Additional provisions in the draft FY15 Interior Appropriations bill include:

  • $130 million for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Natural Hazards Program. Supports volcano monitoring in Alaska to protect commercial air traffic and Alaska communities. This amount reflects a $2 million increase requested by Sen. Begich.
  • $1 million of U.S. Geological Survey strategic digital mapping initiative funding to be used specifically to improve elevation data in Alaska. Lack of adequate elevation data has presented safety hazards for general aviation and navigation, and delayed resource development. 

$22 million for the Alaska Land Conveyance Program – a $3 million increase requested by Sen. Begich. The draft also includes language requested by Sen. Begich requiring the Secretary of the Interior to provide a detailed report on contaminated lands that were conveyed to Alaska Native Corporations through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). DOI has acknowledged conveying approximately 650 contaminated sites through ANCSA. The report requires an inventory of contaminated sites, an update on the response so far, and a detailed plan on how DOI intends to complete the cleanup.

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