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Tribal assistance, job programs lose funds

By Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska will get about half the BIA settlement funds slated for Southeast tribal governments. Southeast Alaska’s regional tribal government is temporarily ending programs that help clients find jobs and pay for living expenses.

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska says Bureau of Indian Affairs budget cuts are to blame.

William Martin directs the council’s 477 programs, which are named after the federal law that funds them.

He says they provide back-to-school clothing vouchers, on-the-job training and vocational-school and college scholarships.

“The people we’ve been working with are generally low-income, low-resource families. And our job is to assist them in becoming self-sufficient or getting to a place where they don’t need us anymore,” he said.

He says the BIA cut funding to the council by 20 percent, or about $650,000, for this calendar year.

Chief Operating Officer Corrine Garza says the council only learned about it eight months into the year.

“If we knew about it at the beginning of the year, of course, we could make cuts throughout the year, rather than trying to do it all in a period of four months,” she said.

Garza says the council received no formal notice of the reduction. She found the information in a grant document and confirmed it with the BIA. The federal agency did not immediately respond to emails about the cuts.

Tlingit-Haida Central Council runs the programs in Craig, Klawock, Kasaan, Saxman, Wrangell, Juneau and Haines. It’s run by local tribal governments in some other communities.

Council officials say they’re referring clients to other resources, when possible. It’s not clear whether the cuts will extend into next year.

Note: This report has been updated to include additional information about 477 programs.