With the federal government shutdown Tuesday due to a budget stalemate, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) is bracing for impact.
Tribal chairman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais said Monday that if Congress failed to reach an agreement to continue funding the federal budget, tribal services including Indian Health Services, child care and federal grant programs could all be affected.
The tribe relies solely on a combination of federal funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and federal grants, which in 2013 totaled around $6 million, Mrs. Andrews-Maltais said. The tribe’s annual funding agreement for the 2014 fiscal year was signed off on two weeks ago, she said, to secure funding from the BIA.
“If they do not come to an agreement to fund the government we have to work on our residual funding and savings that we have accrued . . . in order to keep the lights on and the doors open,” Mrs. Andrews-Maltais said. “If we’re fortunate and they get out of their own way and do pass a continuing resolution, that might fund us until December.”
By Monday night Congress had failed to pass a budget, bringing a suddent halt to government operations. This is the first time the government has shut down in nearly 18 years. The last time it did, during the Clinton administration, the stalemate lasted 21 days.
A briefing was scheduled for tribal leaders late Tuesday afternoon with the White House to discuss the pending shutdown. Mrs. Andrews-Maltais said impact would not be immediate, but departments nevertheless were busy securing all available funds.
“Right now I’m going around to each department and making sure we’re pulling the money that is owed to us from the granting systems,” she said. The chairman is also consulting with counsel “to see what we have to do in case we have to make some hard decisions as far as prioritizing services . . . and what ramifications it may have on staff.”
The tribe received five per cent less funding for fiscal year 2013 than the previous year, Mrs. Andrews-Maltais said. Funding for the coming fiscal year is expected to see an eight per cent cut.
With the shutdown now in effect, Mrs. Andrews-Maltais said the tribe will examine resources “in order to continue government services that are essential.”
Elsewhere on the Island, Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss said it was too early to know if the school district would be affected, with the state still looking into whether and how federal funding that goes through the state to local districts would change.
Juliette Fay, executive director of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, said she has not yet heard anything about cuts to the Island’s Head Start program.
Sara Brown contributed reporting.