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moccasins photo by bia
Moccasins
Credit: BIA

Eliminates burdensome costs for Tribes to operate a program

February 11, 2024 - Last week, the Biden-Harris Administration’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), announced a final rule to eliminate a burdensome cost sharing requirement for Tribal child support programs. The new rule is consistent with President Biden’s recent executive order on Reforming Federal Funding and Support for Tribal Nations to Better Embrace Our Trust Responsibilities and Promote the Next Era of Tribal Self-Determination and part of a Biden Administration push to more effectively support Tribal governments. The rule cuts red tape and improves the flexibility and accessibility of federal funding so that Tribes can grow their economies and provide their citizens with vital and innovative services.

"The Biden-Harris Administration has worked hard to eliminate costs and barriers for Tribes. These changes will make it easier and less expensive for Tribal community-run child support programs to meet the needs of their communities," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. "It’s part of what it means to honor Tribal sovereignty and the trust relationship between the federal government and Tribal Nations – cutting red tape and eliminating barriers for Tribes governments to serve their people. Making federal resources more accessible helps Tribal economies grow and puts vital and innovative services within reach for everyone."

"ACF recognizes Tribal sovereignty and is committed to strengthening our government-to-government relationship with Tribes to support the well-being of Native American children and families," said ACF Acting Assistant Secretary Jeff Hild. "This rule makes it easier for Tribes to serve their children and families through their programs that are consistent with their history, values, and cultures."

Tribal governments have fewer revenue-generating options than state governments, and they have consistently shared that the non-federal share requirement is a burden to operating their own child support programs. In fact, out of the 574 federally-recognized Tribes in the United States, only 61 operate Tribal child support programs. Eliminating this cost-sharing requirement for a Tribal child support program will help Tribes operate programs for their communities.

Tribes have shown success operating their own programs. In FY 2022 - PDF, Tribal child support programs collected $51 million in child support payments, including $10 million collected on behalf of another Tribe, state or country. Of Native American children in Tribal areas with child support programs, 53 percent live in single-parent families.

"I’m so fortunate to learn from vibrant Tribal communities, their dedicated child support directors and Tribal leaders and staff during site visits and conferences," said ACF Office of Child Support Services Commissioner Tanguler Gray. "We’ve heard their feedback loud and clear, and are doing what we can to remove unnecessary burdens to operating their own programs. This rule does just that, and will make it easier for existing and new Tribal child support programs to access funding they need to improve outcomes for children and families."

This rule also promotes equity and honors Tribal sovereignty and the trust relationship between the federal government and Tribal Nations. The purpose behind the trust doctrine is and always has been to ensure the survival and welfare of Indian Tribes and people. This includes an obligation to provide those services required to protect and enhance Tribal lands, resources and self-government, and includes those economic and social programs necessary to raise the standard of living and social well-being of Native people.

"I'm proud of our Tribal partnerships and how this rule works to improve equity and reduce systemic barriers to services," said ACF Administration for Native Americans Commissioner and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Affairs Patrice H. Kunesh. "The Administration for Children and Families will continue to support social and economic development in a manner that provides Tribal Nations with the greatest possible self-determination."
Source: HHS