Legislative Update

By Kerri Colfer, Tlingit, Senior Native Affairs Advisor, NIWRC

Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act

On December 5, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA-6) introduced the Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act (S. 5186). The bill, which was initially proposed by Senator Warren and then-Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM-1) in 2019, is a response to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report: Broken Promises: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans.

The Honoring Promises to Native Nations Act will address the chronic underfunding of essential services and programs in Indian Country, including criminal justice and public safety, health care, education, housing, and economic development. A summary of the bill is available here

Bridging Agency Data Gaps and Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act 

On September 22, Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07) and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) led Representatives Tom Cole (R-OK-04), Sharice Davids (D-KS-03), and Dan Newhouse (R-WA-03) in introducing the BADGES for Native Communities Act (S. 4923 /H.R. 8960). The bill promotes recruitment and retention of federal law enforcement, addresses inefficiencies in federal missing persons data systems, increases Tribal access to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), and establishes a grant program to improve coordination efforts between states, Tribes, and Tribal organizations on cases of missing and murdered persons.

Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act of 2021 (FVPSA)

On October 26, 2021, the United States House of Representatives voted 228 to 200 to pass the bipartisan Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act (FVPSA) of 2021 (H.R. 2119). The bill, which was introduced on March 23, 2021 by Representatives Lucy McBath (D-GA-06), Gwen Moore (D-WI-04), Don Young (R-AK-At Large), and John Katko (R-NY-24), provides critical funding for shelter and supportive services for victims of domestic violence, including those in Indian Country.

On July 21, 2021, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions marked up S. 1275. The bill advanced out of Committee by voice vote, but stalled in the Senate and unfortunately was not reauthorized during the 117th Congress.

This FVPSA reauthorization bill provides critical support for shelters, coalitions, training, and technical assistance centers, children’s services, emergency response hotlines, and prevention initiatives. The FVPSA is also the only federal grant program solely dedicated to domestic violence shelter and supportive services and is the primary source of funding for these services for Indian Tribes.

The FVPSA would expand grant programs and make many needed improvements so that more survivors have access to support and safety, including:

  • Adjustment of the funding distribution formula to increase the amount that Tribes receive from 10% to 12.5%;
  • Dedicated funding for Tribal coalitions to provide culturally-appropriate technical assistance to Tribes;
  • Permanent funding for the national Indian domestic violence hotline;
  • Permanent funding for the Alaska Tribal Resource Center on Domestic Violence to reduce disparities facing Native victims; and
  • Permanent funding for the Native Hawaiian Resource Center on Domestic Violence.