Tribes awarded $715M in HUD grants
Last updated 3/23/2016 at 6:32pm
WASHINGTON, DC-Tribes across the United States, including the newest members of the federally recognized family, have been awarded more than $715 million in housing funds.
The largest chunk of $660.2 million came from the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) Program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Recipients included the Pamunkey Tribe of Virginia, whose federal status only became final late last month (see article, page 3). The tribe's grant of $50,282 was among the smallest of the 587 that were announced on February 16. But it marks a significant step in addressing housing conditions on the 1,200-acre reservation where a few dozen families currently live.
The IHBG amounts are based on a formula that considers local needs and existing housing units. Tribes with larger numbers and larger numbers such as the Navajo Nations, whose grant totaled $86.4 million, and the Cherokee Nation, whose grant came to nearly $30 million, received more funds.
"Every family, every community in America, deserves the chance to flourish," said Secretary Julian Castro in a press release. "Tribes use this funding to build new homes, or to solve their most pressing housing issues."
Another round of funding came from the Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) Program. Awards totaling $55.5 million for 75 tribes were announced on February 19.
Recipients included the Tejon Tribe of California, whose federal status was reaffirmed in January 2012. The grant of $605,000 will be used to buy a public building and convert it into a community center, according to HUD.
Tribes could be in line for even more money under the fiscal year 2017 budget proposed by President Barack Obama. The request includes $700 million for the IHBG program, a $50 million increase above current levels, according to a justification document.
Another $80 million is being sought for the ICDBG program, with $20 million to be set aside for Native youth programs.
"With these additional resources, tribes will be able to compete for funding for community projects that will help to improve outcomes for Native youth, such as construction or renovations of community centers, health clinics, transitional housing, preschool Head Start facilities and teacher housing," a budget document states. "The goal of this is to further support the government's Native American Youth Priorities, including: improving education and life outcomes, reducing teen suicide, addressing the shortage of teachers on reservations, and improving access to the Internet."
Despite the potential improvements, tribes are still facing obstacles on Capitol Hill. The Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act expired in September 2013 and Congress has failed to renew the law, which authorizes the IHBG program, the source of the larger pot of funds.
"While funding remains, it needs to be reauthorized. Otherwise it becomes known as discretionary spending," Senator John Barrasso (Wyoming), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, told the National American Indian Housing Council at the organization's legislative conference in Washington, D.C., in late February. "That means the Indian Block Grant will have to compete with all the other expired programs to get funding."