Treasury Secretary visits Rosebud Reservation, discusses economic recovery

ROSEBUD INDIAN RESERVATION, S.D. — Tuesday was a historic day for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, as U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen paid a visit. Yellen’s visit marked the first time that a Treasury Secretary has visited a tribal nation.

“It’s really meaningful to me to see firsthand the beauty of the Rosebud Reservation and to hear about the rich heritage of the Lakota people,” Secretary Yellen says. “It’s also been illuminating to listen to you discuss the deep challenges that you and tribal nations around the country face and hear your thoughts on how we can partner together to accelerate the economic recovery for all tribal citizens.”

Secretary Yellen spent the day traveling around the reservation and met with leaders of South Dakota’s tribal governments.

“It was a very productive, meaningful discussion that we did have,” says President Scott Herman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “I believe that we – with this Secretary of Treasury – that we’re going to see some progress within our tribe with her help.”

The goal was to strengthen relationships, and for federal officials to see how American Rescue Plan Act funds are being put to good use.

“Reservations are centers of economic opportunity for millions of tribal and non-tribal members,” Secretary Yellen says. “They merit deep investment by the federal government and our private sector partners. I see a great deal that policies can do to support tribal communities. Tribes are the backbone of local communities and tribal governments are often the largest employer of their citizens and residents in surrounding areas.”


AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT QUICK FACTS

The following information was taken from a U.S. Treasury Department Fact Sheet, published March 18, 2021.

  • The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provided billions in COVID-19 pandemic relief.
  • It earmarked $350 billion dollars in emergency funding for state, local, territorial, and tribal governments, including $195 billon for states and $20 billion for tribal governments.
  • The Capital Projects Fund was established, setting aside $10 billion for governments to cover capital projects, like expanding broadband infrastructure.
  • Another $10 billion was set aside for the Homeowner Assistance Fund, and $21.6 billion for Emergency Rental Assistance.

“The ARPA was an important milestone, not only due to the relief it provided. It also began to expand and redefine the relationship of the Treasury Department with tribal nations,” Secretary Yellen says.


During her remarks, Secretary Yellen addressed the “significant inequities” facing tribal governments, saying many are a result of former federal policies.

“Over 25% of Native Americans live in poverty. In certain tribes, over half of their citizens live in poverty,” Secretary Yellen says. “For Native Americans living on reservations, the unemployment rate is around 50 percent, and those numbers are unthinkably high. Our administration of this aid has shown that learning from and partnering with tribal nations results in better federal policy for tribal and surrounding communities.”


TRIBAL ECONOMIC STATISTICS

The following data was taken from the National Congress of American Indians, and shows it was last updated in June of 2020.

  • American Indian and Alaska Native businesses had an estimated buying power of $115 billion in 2018, larger than many countries, including Serbia, Panama, Uganda, and Costa Rica.
  • The number of American Indian and Alaska Native-owned businesses totaled 272,919 in 2012, a 15 percent increase since 2007. The businesses’ total worth of receipts was $38.8 billion, up 13 percent from 2007.
  • The median household income in 2017 for American Indians and Alaska Natives was $40,315. This compares to $57,652 for the nation as a whole.
  • The percentage of American Indian and Alaska Natives living in poverty in 2017 was estimated to be 26.8 percent. This compares to 14.6 percent for the nation as a whole.

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Secretary Yellen (middle) wearing her personalized star quilt, stands between Rosebud Tribal Secretary Nicole Marshall (left) and Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Scott Herman (right).

In 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act earmarked more than $30 billion for tribal governments to promote economic development and recovery from the pandemic.

“The last two years have been hard for everyone, but they’ve been especially difficult for Native American communities. Tribal communities have had some of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates in the country, and the date shows that few suffered more than Native American workers and enterprises during the pandemic,” Secretary Yellen says.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is using millions in federal funding to increase broadband connectivity, provide rental housing, and utility assistance, and promote small businesses.

Newly nominated U.S. Treasurer Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba was also in attendance – the first Native American to hold the position.

Hear from Malerba during her visit to the Rosebud Indian Reservation:

Yellen announced the creation of an Office of Tribal and Native Affairs, which will continue to coordinate tribal relations and provide ongoing resources for Indian country.

“With this announcement, we’re making an even deeper commitment to Indian country. We look forward to working with tribal nations and Congress to make this office permanent so it will be there for decades to come.”

Both Yellen and Herman say they hope the relationships forged during this visit continue to grow, and that they look forward to working together in the future.

“As Treasury distributed this aid, we made sure to do so in a way that both respected tribal sovereignty and built upon our partnership to tackle Indian country’s economic challenges. We have strengthened our government-to-government relationship with tribal nations over the past year and a half,” Secretary Yellen adds.


INVESTMENTS IN THE ROSEBUD SIOUX TRIBE

The following information was provided to the media by Secretary Yellen’s communications team.

  • Rosebud received almost $200 million through State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF). They invested $18 million for COVID-related projects like vaccine incentives, contact tracing, and burials. $40 million went towards substantial housing projects designed to address problems like overcrowding, population growth, and the lack of affordable housing.
  • More than 700 households received rental and utility assistance from the almost $10 million earmarked from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
  • 384 homes were repaired, 350 households received utility assistance, 200 households received property tax assistance, and 93 households received mortgage assistance from more than $5 million given to the tribe from the Homeowners Assistance Fund.
  • The tribe received approval on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 to use more than $160,000 in funding from the Capital Projects Fund to upgrade their existing broadband infrastructure.
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