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Alaska tribes call on Obama administration to settle up

Outstanding IHS, BIA contracts remain unpaid despite court decision

Posted: November 5, 2013 - 1:00am

Sixty tribes and tribally affiliated organizations from across the country have signed a letter to President Barack Obama asking his administration to settle outstanding Indian Health Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs contract costs claims.

The letter — which includes signatures from leaders of the Tlingit-Haida Central Council, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, Southcentral Foundation and the Arctic Slope Native Association, among others — was sent to the president as representatives from tribes and tribal organizations from around the country prepare to attend a Nov. 13 White House Tribal Nations Conference.

Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter that the federal government must pay contract support costs to tribes that are contracted to manage federal programs. In September, Congress proposed caps on funding for contract support costs. Many tribes and tribal health organizations called the proposal illegal and said it defied the Ramah decision.

In the letter, tribes lambast the Obama administration for not immediately settling unpaid contract costs.

“This failure is stunning, since the BIA and IHS regularly reported to Congress on the precise extent of the agencies’ annual underpayments,” the letter states.

The letter calls on the Obama administration to “promptly settle all outstanding IHS and BIA claims, to honor the Nation’s current and future contract obligations to the Tribes, and to put into place concrete and meaningful consultation processes with Indian Country.”

The 2013 White House Tribal Nations Conference will be the fifth for the Obama administration. Leaders from 566 federally-recognized tribes are expected to attend the conference at the Department of the Interior’s Washington D.C. offices.

• Contact reporter Jennifer Canfield at 523-2279 or at jennifer.n.canfield@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/canfieldjenn.

 

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