Fiscal Responsibility Act Claws Back Some Tribal Funding

Jun 30, 2023 | News

In his first few months as Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, used negotiations on a bill to increase the debt ceiling to rescind “unobligated” COVID-19 related funding—including some tribal funding.  The bill also put limitations on future spending and included some permitting reforms to streamline environmental reviews.  Known as the Fiscal Responsibility Act, President Biden signed the bill into law on June 3, 2023. 

Funding for tribal governments was largely spared, or otherwise obligated, but some tribal funding provided under Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was rescinded.  The biggest recission was to funding provided for tribal housing programs.  The Act rescinds Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding that was provided to the Office of Native American Programs for the operation of tribal housing and housing block grants.

Other funding provided under the CARES Act and ARPA that was rescinded included:

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs funding that was available for tribal housing improvement, government services, public safety and justice, social services, child welfare assistance, and provide and deliver potable water
  • Emergency grant funding for Native American language preservation and maintenance
  • Department of Education funding for Indian education
  • United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants program for broadband
  • Pandemic Assistance funding intended for short-term benefits 

Advanced appropriations for the Indian Health Service (IHS) were saved from the spending caps and other measures that will restrict Congressional spending in the coming years. 

The permitting reforms included in the Fiscal Responsibility Act incorporate provisions from the Building United States Infrastructure through Limited Delays and Efficient Reviews Act (BUILDER Act) that amend the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  These reforms require that federal agencies only assess or consider “reasonable” or “reasonably foreseeable” impacts and alternatives, as opposed to every impact or alternative, allows tribes to submit requests to the Council for Environmental Quality for designation as a lead agency, imposes limits on page numbers for environmental impact statements, as well as time limits on environmental impact statements and environmental assessments.  

Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP is dedicated to the representation of American Indian tribes, tribal entities, and individual Indians across the United States. Our mission is to support and advance the sovereignty, self-sufficiency, and self-governance of our tribal clients. To learn more about how we can assist your tribe, contact our DC office at (202-434-8903).