According to the National American Indian Housing Council, some 90,000 American Indian families are homeless or under-housed, and 40% of on-reservation housing is inadequate.
5 NATIVE AMERICAN FUNDING FACTS
Many people believe the U.S. government meets the needs of Native Americans through treaty benefits and entitlements. They perceive Native Americans receive free housing, healthcare, education, and food; government checks each month, and income without the burden of taxes. Reality is that federal treaty obligations are often unmet and almost always underfunded, and many Native families are struggling. Here are five facts to know about Native funding in the U.S.
Fact 1: Free Housing
Although the BIA has assisted Native American families with housing, these homes are not free. It is common for Native families on the reservations to make housing payments to the BIA. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has also funded some Native housing and home repairs. Still, according to the National American Indian Housing Council, some 90,000 American Indian families are homeless or under-housed, and 40% of on-reservation housing is inadequate.
Fact 2: American Indian Education
At the college level, Native American students must compete for scholarships along with other Americans. Today more Native American students hope to attend college, but only 17% start college and only 16% have a college degree, often due to a lack of funding.
Fact 3: Casino Riches
The National Indian Gaming Commission reports only 245 tribes in 29 states operate casinos (as of 2019). Of these, about one-third earn less than $3 million in revenue, and a third have $10-25 million in revenue (enough to give per capita payouts, depending on the needs of each tribe and federal approval). Research shows that casinos need to be within 50 miles of a metro area (with 10,000 or more residents) to be highly profitable such as the 15% mentioned above.
In PWNA’s experience, the rural and remote casinos do not have enough traffic to generate large profits — they do create a few tribal jobs. We also see some tribes that are prospering from gaming assisting other tribes that are struggling economically, but it’s important to remember that even this use of gaming profit is regulated by the federal government.
Fact 4: Government Checks
Throughout PWNA’s service area, the main forms of governmental aid seem to be energy assistance and food commodities (arising from treaties and connected with loss of reservation lands and natural food sources). TANF is also available for single mothers but often requires them to volunteer for 40 hours a week in a supervised work program leading to job placement. Other social programs such as WIC and SNAP (food stamps) are available on the reservations; these are the same programs available to all Americans, with allocations based on demonstrated need.
Fact 5: Native Americans and Taxes
It is also important to understand that the lack of available jobs on the reservations fuel joblessness at 35% to 85% and a poverty rate of 15% to 54% (varies by reservation). It is not for lack of exuberance or effort on the part of Native Americans that these conditions exist. Many of the hardest working folks we know are Native American. Rather, outside business is reluctant to invest in small, remote, and rugged reservation communities and doing so is complex given that tribal land is held in trust for the tribes but owned by the federal government, and all businesses and investors must comply with federal, state and tribal regulations. As a result, most jobs on the reservations are tribal, government, or state jobs with restrictive and historic budget cuts that limit opportunities for growth.