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Senate Passes Bill to Improve Indian Employment and Training


The Senate on Friday passed three bills to improve living conditions for tribes throughout Indian country. Two of them benefit tribes in Oregon and one strengthens and reforms Public Law 102-477 (also known as the 477 program), a comprehensive Native employment and training program.

S.1443, also known as the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act of 2015, was introduced by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and was unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on October 21, 2015.

The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate and will make the 477 program permanent, while expanding the types of sources of funding available, resolve plan approval and appeal processes, and ensure that funds will be transferred and require only one report. Companion legislation has been introduced by Congressman Don Young in the House of Representatives – where the bill now goes before reaching the President.

“The 477 program has proven to be an innovative and effective tool in providing education and training opportunities aimed to improve the quality of life in every region of Alaska. I am proud the Senate has recognized the importance of this program to support self-sufficiency, create jobs, and expand employment opportunities for American Indians and Alaska Natives nationwide” Murkowski said following the passing.

According to a release on Murkowski’s official site, “Public Law 102-477 is unique in that it allows federally-recognized tribes and Alaska Native entities to combine formula-funded federal grant funds into a single plan with a single budget and a single reporting system.”

Plans would then be allowed for the purpose of economic development, job training, welfare-to-work and tribal work experience, higher education, skill development, facilitation of employment, assisting Indian youth and adults to succeed in the workforce, and encouraging self-sufficiency.

U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), SCIA chairman also sent praise for the passing stating, “Unemployment is disproportionately high in tribal communities. The Senate passed a bill that will empower tribes to expand employment and training programs. I want to thank Senator Murkowski for championing this common sense legislation that will have an immediate impact. I urge the House of Representatives to take this bill up and pass it soon.”

Barrasso also praised the Senate’s passage of S.817 and S.818.

S. 817 will provide for the addition of certain real property to the reservation of the Siletz Tribe in the state of Oregon; and S. 818 will amend the Grand Ronde Reservation Act to make technical corrections, and for other purposes.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the bills which both passed out of the SCIA on November 18, 2015.

“Both bills demonstrate the Senate’s willingness to listen to tribes and to act,” Barrasso said. “The House of Representatives should take up both pieces of legislation quickly.”

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