Deb Haaland and Norma Torres Aim to Jump-Start Economy in Indian Country
Congresswomen Deb Haaland (D-NM)and Norma Torres (D-CA) introduced legislation on Wednesday to support Indian Country’s ability to become more self-reliant and help reduce the persistent poverty and unemployment that plague Indian Country. The Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act would elevate and fund the Department of Commerce’s Office of Native American Business Development and ensure effective implementation of the Buy Indian Act -- a policy that the Department of Interior (DOI) set-aside procurement contracts for Indian-owned and controlled businesses -- within DOI and Health and Human Services. “We all know that economic development is key to self-determination, but often times the system doesn’t work for Native communities,” said Haaland, Co-Chair of the Native American Caucus. “So, we’re introducing a bill to create more paths to success to [jump-start] economic development in Indian Country.” The measure would also reauthorize the Social and Economic Development Strategies grant program administered by the Administration for Native Americans. “Across the country, Native American entrepreneurs are ready to start new businesses, create jobs, and lift up their communities,” said Torres. “For too long, lack of access to credit and community development have hampered tribes’ entrepreneurial spirit. This bill is a first step to change that.” Of 27 counties with a majority American Indian or Alaska Native population, about two-thirds had unemployment rates last year above the national level, with nine at 10% or higher. Many of the counties are in the Dakotas and Alaska. Unemployment rates varied, ranging from 3.5% to 21%, according to a Bloomberg News analysis of county data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics along with 2016 U.S. Census data. More here.