Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed submitted Emergency Resolution #464 (2019) at the end of the regular session of Tribal Council on Thursday, Jan. 10 to implore Congressman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) to use his position of authority to end the federal government shutdown. Chief Sneed related he has worked with tribal programs and divisions to determine the impact on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and its members.
“There are numerous instances where political figures disagree on issues facing their constituents,” said Chief Sneed. “However, it is unacceptable for those figures to allow those disagreements to so negatively impact the good people of the United States. I am calling for an end to this shutdown so the country can move forward in reopening federal agencies.”
Chief Sneed worked with Tribal Council to draft a letter to Congressman Meadows requesting he use his influence to end the shutdown.
In the letter, dated Jan. 11, Chief Sneed writes, “While the Eastern Band has made emergency plans to address stoppages in the flow of federal funds and is better situated than most tribal governments in this respect, the strains placed upon the Tribe and its members are significant. The stoppage is impacting our reservation economy and important services that we provide to our citizens.”
Chief Sneed outlines various areas of the tribal government that are being affected by the shutdown including: larger reservation development projects, reservation timber industry, mortgage processing, taxation, renewable energy, health care, and legal.
On projects, he wrote, “The EPA is unavailable to process construction general permits for larger development projects on the reservation, so construction is stalled.”
Mortgage processing is being greatly affected he writes, “We cannot close any home loans because the BIA completes and leases and assignments for mortgage loans. The BIA Superintendent has been furloughed and cannot sign off on these mortgage loans.”
The payment of a major renewable energy project of the Tribe is being affected. “The Eastern Band just completed a solar project in Cherokee County through a Department of Energy grant. Because DOE employees have been furloughed, we will be unable to pay the contractor for work completed. The project cost was $2.3 million with $1 million coming from DOE.”
Chief Sneed said the shutdown is also affecting health care, “The Eastern Band will continue to provide direct clinic services as well as referrals. However, all other Indian Health Service (IHS) programs have been halted. Our cash reserves will carry the hospital for 200 days, so we have planned ahead, but the shutdown directly impacts 12 of our employees. Further, the IHS Area Office employees are furloughed and unable to provide assistance or guidance.”
The letter concluded with, “The Eastern Band has implemented emergency programs that allow Easter Band federal employees to take out short-term loans to cover their basic monthly expenses. I respectfully request that our federal elected officials move past their disagreements and reopen the federal government again.”
– One Feather staff report