Congress has three weeks to come up with a bill to fund the government past February, and depending on what’s in it, it could mean more layoffs at Indian Health Centers in Nebraska and across the country.
Tribal Projects Manager Rebecca White with the Center for Rural Affairs says while lawmakers work on crafting a budget, healthcare workers on reservations, many of whom are Native-American, worry about the long-term status of much needed federal funding.
“It’s kind of a temporary fix, kind of a band aid-effect,” says White. “it’s like, for three weeks we may be OK, but what are we doing in these three weeks to ensure we have services and staff coverage?”
White says many Indian Health Centers laid-off workers as a direct result of the most recent shutdown, and more could be laid off if lawmakers can’t come to an agreement.
White says this will have devastating impacts on reservations in the long-term, many of which rely on the health centers for not only healthcare, but well-paying jobs.
White says the average household on a reservation is about seven people, “So if they’re all depending on that paycheck for food and gas and that paycheck isn’t coming in, that’s devastating.”
White says those laid-off jobs may return, but that’s completely dependent on the amount of money worked into the budget agreement being discussed in Washington.
If Indian Health Centers receive less money than were receiving, White warns many layoffs could become permanent.