Federal money supporting local Native

American

workforce development may evaporate if Congress approves an effort

to streamline a variety of job-training funds.

The Streamlining

Workforce Development Programs Act

(H.R. 3610) is designed to eliminate

redundancy in federally funded job-training programs and reduce

"wasted" taxpayer money, says the bill's sponsor, Rep. Virginia Foxx,

R-NC.

But eliminating dedicated funding streams and placing state

governors in charge of distribution decisions could mean trouble for Indiana's

Native Americans, said Doug Poe, executive director and chief executive officer

of the American Indian Center of

Indiana, Inc.

Despite the fact that "Native Americans face several

barriers to employment," Poe said he fears Native Americans will

experience diminished priority and funding under a state-controlled system.

In fact, according to Poe, the state does not track

joblessness among Indiana's Native Americans.

"The State doesn't understand the population base and

its specific problems," Poe said, noting that much of the center's success

can be attributed to the trust his clients place in the native-operated

outreach.

Established in 1992, the AICI serves members of federal- and

state-recognized tribes and the Miami Nation of Indiana, particularly those

wary of dealing with state agencies due to a lack of trust stemming from

historical trauma after generations of abuse.

The center does receive some grant money, but the center

relies on federal funds to pay for the office, salaries, insurance,

job training and educational assistance so that other funds can be dedicated to

cultural programs.

"Without it, we can't continue cultural programs,"

Poe said. "If this bill passes, the state will take the funds and the

minimum will be dispersed. It will be the end of the Center – the only

state organization supplying cultural and medical needs to the Native American

population."

A 2011 Government Accountability Office report identified 47

federal job-training programs that cost taxpayers $18 billion each year. Only

five have been evaluated for effectiveness.

Foxx believes that by consolidating 33 of the 47 programs

into four flexible Workforce Investment Funds her bill will increase

accountability, reduce administrative inefficiencies and foster a more

efficient and goal-oriented workforce development system to better serve job

seekers and employers.

Poe said he fears Native American services could become a

casualty of the effort and is rallying supporters of the native community to

contact their representatives.

"Now there is a focus on a national group, but by

allowing each state's governor to decide how much each 'targeted population'

gets, it breaks us into an insignificant number of people without an effective

political voice," Poe said.

The bill is currently under review in a House economic

opportunity subcommittee.

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