A letter regarding the government shutdown and how it will affect Fort Peck Tribes was sent out to all tribal staff this week.
The letter states that although the tribe relies on federal money to maintain operations and to provide services, there are sufficient funds to maintain operations until the shutdown is over.
“I have a great staff and financial administration that does a great job. Pretty much, we’re all on the same page. We’re a business. We want to do it right and we want to do it correctly. That’s how we’re getting this done,” Fort Peck Tribal chairman Floyd Azure said.
Azure told MTN the tribe has enough funds to survive an entire year if the government continues to be shut down.
“It’s very good management and teamwork. We’re all working together,” Azure said.
He added the majority of the services are supplemented by tribal funds.
“We’re definitely prepared. We can do business as usual, except services through the BIA. Majority of our contracts through the BIA are 638 contracts. So, we have a lot of those that are law enforcement, our courts, our corrections facility, our youth detention center, those programs, we supplement all of them. We can still keep going,” Azure said.
The tribe also has enough funds saved up to pay employees while they work every day and cover their benefits.
“We have a lot of programs under our government that we pay for ourselves that we have here,” Azure said.
But Azure did not discredit that some are still hurting from the shutdown.
“Our total BIA is shut down. That’s ridiculous. They have families to feed, bills to pay. They are no different than anyone else,” Azure said.
Those most affected by the shutdown are people with food stamps.
“There are people hurting on the shutdown. If they are enrolled members and need assistance in any way, we have programs that they can probably sign on to,” Azure said.
His message to Congress is to help those who really need it.
“I think our federal government should quit playing school ground games and get business taken care of like it’s supposed to be. I think if you are going to do anything with that you should give it to the tribes. We need it desperately. Majority of our people are poverty-stricken, uneducated, we have a meth problem on this reservation and on every reservation in Montana,” Azure said.
Story by Elizabeth Transue, MTN News