Dear USET/USET SPF Family,
On September 7, 2023, the Indian Health Service (IHS) issued a Dear Tribal Leader Letter announcing Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 allocation decisions for $700 million appropriated to the IHS in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The IIJA appropriates $700 million to the IHS each fiscal year, from FY 2022 to FY 2026, for a total of $3.5 billion for the IHS Sanitation Facilities Construction (SFC) program. The SFC is responsible for providing technical and financial assistance to Tribal Nations for the cooperative development of sanitation, water and waste systems on Tribal Lands. The SFC maintains the Sanitation Deficiency System (SDS) which annually tracks and inventories existing sanitation deficiencies on Tribal lands. As of December 2022, there were over 1,300 projects on the SDS totaling $4.4 billion in eligible costs and $1.1 billion in eligible costs.
The IIJA included provisions governing the use of these additional resources. The statute directs IHS to use up to $2.2 billion of the funding for "economically infeasible" projects. While statute did not prevent the IHS from using SFC funds for economically infeasible projects prior to IIJA passage, limited resources at the IHS prevented funding of these projects. A small amount of the funding is also reserved for program administration at the IHS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In April 2023, the IHS conducted Tribal consultation on these resources seeking recommendations on how these funds should be used and distributed within these statutory guidelines.
Based on recommendations received during Tribal consultation, the IHS has decided to use currently available SDS data and the agency's existing funding mechanisms to allocate these resources. This includes IHS direct service projects funded through federal acquisition contracts or Tribal procurement, and Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act construction contracts. The allocation methodology that IHS chose is the same methodology employed for the first year of IIJA funding. This document from IHS shows current SDS projects by area as of December 2022, and this document shows Tier 1 projects and costs funded in FY 2023 by area.
IHS stated that this decision aligns with recommendations from Tribal leaders to prioritize funding for projects that have completed the planning phase and can be immediately placed into the design/construction phase while also providing sufficient funding for planning and design activities for other projects. The IHS's decision on this matter aligns with comments that USET SPF submitted to the agency in April 2023 regarding the SFC funding.
USET SPF will continue to monitor this issue and will provide updates to our membership when necessary.
For more information, please contact Ashton Martin, USET SPF Health Policy Analyst, at email@example.com or at 629-736-1433.