To some, the shutdown is a far off, political issue - an annoyance born of the stubbornness of politicians. But, to those who rely on guarantees from the federal government for a variety of services, it strikes home in an urgent way.
According to the Health and Human Services shutdown plan, about 9,000 employees of the Indian Health Service, or about 60% of the workforce, are continuing to work without pay. Whether working without pay makes the medical care they provide worse or not is unknown. However, the effects of the shutdown on the health and safety of the American Indians who rely on the Federal Government does not stop there.
Some Indian healthcare providers rely on the federal government, and not just for salaries. Referrals to specialists outside of IHS that require funding are stopped and many facilities do not have the funds to continue to operate and must close their doors. Millions of American Indians rely on these services and are potentially at risk.
Additionally, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) will run out of its remaining funds by the end of the month, and some shipments have already been affected. More than 90,000 American Indians and Native Alaskans rely on this program. In addition, federally-funded law enforcement programs on tribal lands are negatively affected, and, some areas prone to snow rely on the Federal Government to help clear the roads.
To many American Indians, this is not a far off, political issue. This is potentially life-threatening.
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