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The American Jobs Act and Indian Country

With unemployment among Native Americans at an unacceptably high rate, the President believes that inaction is not an option. That’s why the President has put out a plan to increase the pace of job creation, and why he has called on Congress to act on this plan.

While the current economic crisis has challenged all Americans, we know this to be especially true for Indian Country where some reservations face unemployment rates of up to 80%.  Though the economic challenges of Indian Country are significant, President Obama is committed to forging a brighter future with tribes by identifying and developing long-term solutions that will help break the generational history of unemployment in Indian Country.  

Last night, the President announced the American Jobs Act, a jobs and growth plan that reflects a commitment to increasing access to jobs for all Americans. With unemployment among Native Americans at an unacceptably high rate, the President believes that inaction is not an option. That’s why the President has put out a plan to increase the pace of job creation, and why he has called on Congress to act on this plan.  The American Jobs Act will make a difference in Indian Country.  For example:

  • Tax cuts to benefit over 20,000 Native American-owned small businesses.  The President is proposing tax cuts that will go to every small business nationwide, providing incentives to hire and make new investments.
  • An estimated 1.5 million Native American workers will benefit from the extension of the payroll tax cut. By extending the payroll tax cut for employees next year, the President’s plan will help increase the paychecks of 1.5 million Native American workers – providing them with more money to spend in their communities and support their families.
  • The extension of unemployment insurance will benefit Native Americans and their families, while providing targeted support for the long-term unemployed.  In addition to extending unemployment insurance, the President is calling for reforms and tax incentives that will help the long-term unemployed – including the disproportionately high rate of Native Americans who have been looking for work for more than six months – find a job. 
  • “Pathways Back to Work” will support subsidized jobs and summer/year-round jobs for low-income Native American youth and adults. In an environment with an unacceptably high unemployment rate for Native American youths, the President is proposing to build on successful programs like those used in the Recovery Act to create jobs for those hardest-hit by the recession.
  • A commitment to rebuilding and revitalizing communities across the country will target investments to the communities hardest-hit by the recession. The President’s investments in infrastructure include a school construction initiative that will provide $125 million for schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education and $12.5 million for tribal colleges, and a new initiative to expand infrastructure employment opportunities for minorities, women, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, including Native Americans.

The President’s announcement last night builds on the Administration’s ongoing efforts to increase job growth and foster economic development in Indian Country.  For example:

  • In the past few months:
    • The Treasury Department announced nearly $12 million in Community Development Financial Institutions Fund awards expressly for financial institutions serving Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities.
    • The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced $15.6 million in Rural Innovation Fund grants to 27 tribes across the country as part of an initiative that will create over 650 jobs nationwide.
    • The Department of Agriculture announced over $3 million in grants through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant program to fund 32 projects focused on supporting small business and job creation opportunities in Indian Country.  
    • The Department of Energy announced 31 tribal energy projects to receive $6.3 million over two years, which will help tribal communities to save money and reduce energy waste, expand the use of clean energy technologies, and promote economic development. 
  • And this fiscal year,
    • The Small Business Administration, through the 7(a), 504 and Microloan Programs, have approved financing for 549 American Indian, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian businesses totaling $116 million.
    • The Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration has provided over $3 million in economic development planning and infrastructure assistance to Indian Tribes.
    • Through the Department of the Interior’s Indian Affairs Capital Investment Program, $80 million in loans were guaranteed this year, creating approximately 750 temporary jobs - primarily in the construction of new facilities. These loans are expected to create 550 permanent jobs in association with the production of new goods and services in Indian Country.

Recently, the White House Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council convened Native American business leaders for a roundtable discussion on economic development in Indian Country.  This roundtable is part of the White House Rural Council’s ongoing engagement with leaders from across Rural America, and provided Administration officials an opportunity to hear from Native American business leaders and policy experts about ways we can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs in tribal communities. 

We recognize that tribes must be the driving force behind federal policies targeted toward job creation and economic development in Indian Country and are committed to working with tribes to ensure they have access to the tools and resources necessary to facilitate this development.

Building strong, prosperous Native American economies is a priority for the President and his Administration.  Working together, we can ensure that all Americans can look forward to a future of renewed prosperity.

For more information about what the programs in the American Jobs Act would do for Native Americans, please click here

Kimberly Teehee, Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council