Federal Government Shutdown Impacts to the Navajo Nation

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Below is a memorandum from the Navajo Nation Washington Office to the Navajo Nation leadership outlining the federal government shutdown impacts to the Navajo Nation. 

Key points: 

  • During the White House tribal leaders call yesterday afternoon the administration committed to the continued operations of any program directly related to the preservation of health, life and safety. 
  • Most federal employees are currently furloughed.
  • No federal register notices will be available for the duration of the shutdown. 
  • The NNWO recommends rescheduling any meetings with federal agencies or staff. 
  • Health clinics both IHS run and 638 are operational. Bureau of Indian Education schools (direct, contract and grant) are operational. Social Security checks will continue to be distributed. 
  • Other programs will be operational as long as there are carry-over, alternative funds, emergency distributions from tribal resources, or other resource made available. 
  • Federal agency counter parts for technical assistance or any other questions will be largely unavailable. The long term impacts to backlogs for all federal activity will adversely impact the Navajo Nation. 
  • The Navajo Nation Washington Office will continue to monitor the activity in Congress and advocate the needs of the Navajo people and encourage a timely resolution to the shutdown.


To: Honorable Ben Shelly, President, Navajo Nation

Honorable Johnny Naize, Speaker, Navajo Nation Council

Herb Yazzie, Chief Justice, Navajo Nation


CC: Arbin Mitchell, Chief of Staff OPVP

Jarvis Williams, Chief of Staff Legislative Branch

Executive Branch Division Directors


From: Navajo Nation Washington Office

Date:  October 1, 2013

Re:  Federal Government Shutdown 2013

Effective midnight Oct. 1, 2013 the federal government began shutdown procedures due to Congress not passing any appropriations bills for fiscal 2014.

As of 12 p.m. Eastern Time today neither House nor Senate had made any progress in negotiating an agreement. At the crux of the debate is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” Republicans in the House are using the budget as leverage to either 1) defund 2) delay or 3) repeal portions of the law that they do not agree with. Both parties are blaming the other for the continued delay in reaching an agreement. President Barack Obama and Democrats have stated they will not negotiate on Affordable Care Act provisions.

In spite of the fact that funding of the health care law is at the center of the budget battle in Congress, implementation of key parts of the law begin Tuesday regardless of any shutdown. Open enrollment begins Tuesday, and consumers will be able to start purchasing health plans that would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Enrollment information may be found at http://www.healthcare.gov. Members of the Navajo Nation and other tribal nations have special provisions due to the trust responsibility. Tribal members have the option of participating in the exchange but are not required to participate. The provisions give tribal members an alternative to current programs provided through insurance and Indian Health Service and could prove very helpful to our members who are not located near Indian Health Service facilities and are seeking affordable insurance options.

What this means for the Navajo Nation government:



On Monday Sept. 30, the White House briefed tribal leaders on their commitment to keep operations that effect life, health and safety operational.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs Contingency Plan excepts personnel for the protection of human life, property and to prevent harm. They have identified the following personnel as the minimum required to provide vital services, exercise civil authority and maintain the safety of its employees and the general public. These excepted employees include law enforcement, human services (child protection), wildfire management, irrigation (fee for service) and safety of dams (early warning systems).





BIA Activities that have ceased:

  • Management and protection of trust assets such as lease compliance and real estate transactions.
  • Federal oversight on environmental assessments, archeological clearances and endangered species compliance.
  • Management of oil and gas leasing and compliance.
  • Timber Harvest and other Natural Resource Management operations.
  • Tribal government related activities.
  • Payment of financial assistance to needy individuals, and to vendors providing foster care and residential care for children and adults.
  • Disbursement of tribal funds for tribal operations including responding to tribal government requests

The Indian Health Service (IHS) will continue to provide direct clinical health care services as well as referrals for contracted services that cannot be provided through IHS clinics.

  • Administration for Children and Families (ACF) – ACF would continue mandatory funded programs including the Federal Parent Locator Service, Personal Responsibility Education and Health Profession Opportunity Grants. Child support and foster care services will also continue because they receive advanced appropriations in the FY 2013 appropriation process. All permissible activities for the Unaccompanied Alien Children program under an exception of preserving human life will continue.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – SAMHSA would continue programs such as the Disaster Distress Helpline, Treatment Locator, Treatment Referral Line, and Suicide Prevention Lifeline using available grant balances.

Activities that would not continue:

  • IHS would be unable to provide funding to Tribes and Urban Indian health programs, and would not perform national policy development and issuance, oversight and other functions, except those necessary to meet the immediate needs of the patients, medical staff and medical facilities.
  • ACF would not continue quarterly formula grants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Child Care, Social Services Block Grant, Refugee Programs, Child Welfare Services and the Community Service Block Grant programs. Additionally new discretionary grants, including Head Start and social services programs, would not be made.


The BIE oversees 59 Bureau operated elementary/secondary schools, two post secondary institutions, and provides technical assistance to 125 tribally controlled elementary/secondary schools and there are also 25 tribally controlled community colleges.

180 employees out of BIE’s 3,815 will not be exempt or excepted and will be furloughed.

All school operations will remain open for direct funded, grant or contract schools.

Funding for school operations is forward funded. Bureau of Indian Education funds are appropriated in the prior year. Thus, the 2013-2014 School Year was funded in fiscal year 2013’s appropriation bill and is available to support ongoing school operations.

The Department of Education has provided funds for the period July 01, 2013 through June 30, 2014. These funds and BIE funds will be used to maintain operations of education programs during a lapse of appropriations.


Deliveries will continue as usual. The U.S. Postal Service relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running and receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations. Post offices will remain functional.


Navajo Nation Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, and other social service programs may be able to function for a short period of time after a shutdown. After that, the programs would shut down without the Navajo tribal government footing the bill in the hopes that a budget will be passed in the short term and will be reimbursed. Food stamps will not be affected.

Social Security benefits (both Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance) will continue to be disbursed uninterrupted.

No new funds will be available to support the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). Existing inventory may be available for use during the time of the shutdown however, no carry-over, contingency or other funds will be available to support continued operations.


All national parks would be closed, as well as national monuments such as Glenn Canyon, Antelope Point Marina, and Forest Service ranger stations would be closed. Navajo Nation parks will remain operational providing they have funds to do so. Visitors using Forest Service and National Park overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park.


Fulltime active guardsmen will not be furloughed, but roughly 1,000 federal technicians, including vehicle and aircraft maintenance workers, computer technicians and human resources personnel would be furloughed starting Tuesday.


While it is unclear how long the shutdown will last however, as of the moment the Congress is no closer to reaching an agreement than they were yesterday. Shutdown could last for as little as 2 days to 2 weeks.



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