Tribes Build Portal to Tap Stimulus Funds

A new online resource explains how the stimulus funds will be dispersed to Indian County: which projects are eligible and how tribal governments can apply.

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After weeks of intense lobbying for tribes to be included in the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), representatives at the National Congress of American Indians realized that tribal leaders needed information about accessing the new funding.  With the help of a team of legislative and policy experts, www.indiancountryworks.org was born. The website provides tribal governments vital information about funding streams available in the stimulus act.

Stimulus funding for tribes will first be directed to federal agencies and other organizations that serve them.  Monies will then be directed to tribes through existing programming.

Many other organizations serving Indian Country including the Indian Housing Council, National Indian Health Board, National Indian Education Association, the National Center of American Indian Enterprise Development and others, are collaborating on the website.

“Organizations are excited about having a central place to send information for use by tribal governments,” says Dante Desiderio of the Sapony tribe. Desiderio, an economic development policy specialist with NCAI, has been working intently on the website since early February.

The site is constructed with the unique needs of tribal governments in mind. The Frequently Asked Questions area of the site offers basic information about the stimulus act,  explaining how tribes can apply and which types of projects and programs are eligible for funding. Indian Country Works is a central clearinghouse for information on all areas of ARRA, including transportation, housing, law enforcement, education, health, energy and other infrastructure needs.

News and updates about the Act and upcoming grant deadlines are also posted on the site and offered via an e-newsletter. The website provides weekly webinars about grant writing, public policy and other topics as well as teleconferences with various government agency officials.  Over 200 people attended the first teleconference, which covered programming available for tribes under the stimulus act.  Desiderio said that 140 people attended Indian Country Works’ first webinar, on grant writing according .  All programs are provided free of charge to all tribal governments, NCAI members and non-members alike. So far, the response from tribes has been very favorable.

Some funding for roads and housing has already been allocated, according to Desiderio.

NCAI also helped gain tax-exempt bonding authority for tribes during this congressional session. For the first time, tribal governments will now be able to issue bonds for community projects.

According to NCAI director Jackie Johnson Pata, these are crucial steps in building critical infrastructure in Indian Country. NCAI is doing on-going evaluations of both Indian Country Works and the effect of the Stimulus Act on Indian Country.

Solar panels of the Ramona Band of Cahuilla, Anza, California: developed with funding from the Department of Energy’s “Tribal Energy Program.”

More infrastructure-building information for tribes is now available from a collaboration between Interior’s Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development and the U. S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.  The Tribal Environmental and Energy Information Clearinghouse website supports renewable-energy resource development in Indian Country.
 
Its intent is to provide a virtual library for reservation communities as they pursue energy development projects.

 

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