MARYSVILLE: NW Washington Delegation Applauds Announcement That Marysville School District Will Receive SERV Grant

Grant allows Marysville School District to reimburse school officials for overtime in wake of school shooting last October

Source: Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen (D-WA-02) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01) applauded the announcement that their request for federal support for Marysville School District has been approved. The grant of $50,000 will go to the school district in the next several days. After the devastating shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in October 2014, Senators Murray and Cantwell and Reps. Larsen and DelBene wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on January 12th, 2015 for a grant to help offset the costs the district incurred in the aftermath of the shooting.

“I am so glad to see the Marysville community receive support to help compensate staff and personnel who acted as heroes after such a tragic event, sacrificing their time, energy, and resources to the school,” said Senator Patty Murray. “This is just a small step in helping them down the long road of recovery, and I know that Marysville is strong enough to keep moving forward while remembering the loved ones lost that day last October.”

“My focus remains on helping the Marysville community heal from this terrible tragedy, and I welcome today’s announcement that vital support is coming for the Marysville-Pilchuck School District,”said Senator Maria Cantwell. “We stand with students, school employees and area residents who were affected, and are inspired by the resilience and unity this community has shown.”

“The Marysville and Tulalip communities remain resilient and strong after last year’s tragedy, and I hope this grant will offer additional support as students, teachers, families and the communities continue to recover,” said Congressman Larsen.
“After a tragedy like this, lives are changed forever and we will always remember the young lives lost,” said Congresswoman DelBene. “I hope these funds help those who gave their time and expertise to support their community in the aftermath of this heartbreaking event.”

Project SERV (School Emergency Response to Violence) grants, issued through the Department of Education, provide funding for short- and long-term education- related services for school districts and institutions of higher education to help these educational institutions recover from violent or traumatic events. The Project SERV grant going to the Marysville School District will help reimburse the school district for transportation expenditures, as extra funds were needed to ensure students were able to get to school, as well as costs for substitute teachers, who stood in for classroom staff who were unable to immediately return to work following the tragedy.

Click here to see the letter the members wrote requesting the grant in January.

Under Tribal Scrutiny, Cantwell Exiting SCIA; Tester to Take Charge


Rob Capriccioso, Indian Country Today, 1/30/14

After a tenuous year of leading the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) has confirmed that she is moving on.

Following weeks of speculation that she would step down to lead the Small Business Committee after a leadership shuffle among Senate Democrats following Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-Montana) retirement, Cantwell made her intentions clear at a January 29 hearing in Washington, saying it has been a pleasure to serve alongside vice-chair John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and to work with current Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn.

“It has been a smooth working process,” Cantwell assessed of her work relationship with Barrasso. “We will certainly appreciate working with you again in the future.”

Reid Walker, a spokesman for the senator, said after the hearing that she will remain on SCIA as a member “and remains committed to Indian country.”

Cantwell, while praised as the first female chair of SCIA, has been criticized by some tribal leaders and advocates for not holding as many hearings and for not pushing for as much pro-tribal legislation as immediate past SCIA leaders by this point in their tenures.

Mary Pavel, Cantwell’s staff director and chief counsel, has held several listening sessions with tribal leaders and citizens, but these have not translated into firm action on many economic and social issues facing tribes today.

Pavel told Indian Country Today Media Network in an interview at the beginning of Cantwell’s term in 2013 that she expected the senator would be a strong leader of SCIA, which is not exactly the perception that many tribal leaders currently have of Cantwell’s one year in the position, although Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in Cantwell’s home state of Washington, said she has done “a great job on behalf of Indian country” in his testimony before the committee on January 29. Tribal leaders from Cantwell’s region have generally been more pleased with her leadership than others.

In the weeks before the Small Business Committee chairmanship opened up, Cantwell had been working behind the scenes at tackling one of the major issues facing Indian country—a legislative fix to the controversial 2009 Supreme Court Carcieri decision that called into question the Department of the Interior’s ability to take lands into trust for tribes recognized by the federal government after 1934.

But Cantwell’s Carcieri legislation was mired in conflict before even getting out of the starting gate, since it was not drafted with wide consultation from tribal leaders. It called for a fix that would exclude the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island, and it made modifications to rules that would make gaming impossible or more difficult for some tribes. Many tribes and Indian organizations have argued that land-into-trust policy should not be tied to gaming policy, as they are distinct issues.

According to sources familiar with Cantwell’s effort on the Carcieri draft legislation, she worked with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on ideas involving historical connections tests for tribes that want to pursue off reservation gaming. Feinstein has long been controversial in Indian country for her desire to limit tribal gaming, especially in California. In a sign of their closeness, Cantwell sat next to Feinstein at the president’s January 28 State of the Union address, and they have introduced joint legislation in the past. Still, Feinstein’s office insists the senator did not play a role in drafting the legislation.

Tribal leaders who have seen the draft Carcieri legislation have generally let their displeasure with Cantwell’s work here be known, and the legislation is widely considered to be stalled with her moving on from the leadership.

Cantwell’s staff is well aware of the difficulties, but they say the senator has not given up. “Several ideas are being considered with input from multiple stakeholders, and more work needs to be done,” said Walker. “She and the committee remain committed to finding a solution.”

The Carcieri discussions and other issues within SCIA have been tense of late, and there were recent indications that the general tension of the atmosphere was affecting staffers there when Denise Desiderio, a deputy staff director at SCIA, decided to leave after five years with the committee. She has long told colleagues that she loved working there, so her decision was one indication of the difficulties surrounding Cantwell’s tenure, according to sources close to Desiderio.

A major highlight of Cantwell’s leadership was the passage of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013 that included strong tribal jurisdictional provisions for prosecuting non-Indian offenders on reservations. The senator strongly supported that legislation, and she helped Indian advocates make their voices heard on the issue. She’s also been strong on forcing the federal government to pay contract support costs to tribes, and she has played a role in holding up Indian Health Service Director Yvette Roubideaux’ re-nomination to the position due to tribal concerns.

With Cantwell making her intentions to exit SCIA known, all eyes now turn to Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), who will take on the chairmanship, Senate sources have confirmed.

Tester, who has served on the committee since his first term in Congress that started in 2007, has been angling for the position with support from Senate colleagues, including the retiring Baucus. Other contenders were Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), but he is retiring from Congress at the end of this year, and Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) were also interested, according to Senate sources.

Tester, with the strong backing of the tribes in his home state, ended up with the gavel, and he is quickly signaling his intentions to be a proactive chairman. In mid-January, he introduced legislation that would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to provide increased federal financial support to Native American language programs at American Indian-focused schools. And on January 30, he provided the congressional response to the annual State of the Indian Nations address hosted by the National Congress of American Indians. He’s also been meeting behind-the-scenes with many tribal leaders and advocates.

“I serve on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs—we work hard, and the accomplishments are many, from the Native American protections in the Violence Against Women Act to the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to water settlements to my work with veterans to the Tribal Law and Order Act to NAHASDA,” Tester told ICTMN in a 2012 interview. “I am very proud of my record. I also visit every reservation in Montana every year.”



Cantwell, Barrasso Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Reauthorize Key Tribal Housing Bill

The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act is Set to Expire in Two Months

From the Chair of Maria Cantwell


WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced S.1352, to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), which is scheduled to expire on September 30, 2013.  They were joined by Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Begich (D-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).


In 1996, Congress first passed NAHASDA to help ensure that Tribes and their members are provided safe and affordable housing, and that housing programs meet the needs of Tribal members well into the future.   NAHASDA helps address a critical need for housing assistance in Indian Country, where more than 28% of reservation households lack adequate plumbing and kitchen facilities, while nationally only 5.4% of households lack such infrastructure.


“Housing conditions in Native American communities remain some of the most challenging in the nation.  This Act is designed to assist those communities, where substandard housing is rampant and poverty is a serious issue,” Cantwell said.   “The reauthorization of this Act is critically important to help ensure that Tribes continue to have access to the tools necessary to provide for the basic housing needs of their members.  While more must be done, I am pleased to note that this is one of the most successfully implemented programs in Indian Country to date.”


“Our bill responds to a fundamental need on our nation’s Indian reservations: safe, adequate housing for low income Indian people.   Without adequate housing, families can’t thrive and parents can’t provide a healthy environment for their children so they can do well in school and life.  This problem takes a toll on entire reservation communities and we have to address it,” Barrasso said.  “I look forward to working with the Chairwoman and other members of the Committee to move this bill forward in the Senate as soon as possible.”


This bill improves the current law by:


  • Increasing usage of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits by developers and investors that target projects serving Indian communities.


  • Elimination of duplicative requirements when multiple agencies are involved in a housing-related project by identifying the majority federal partner and using that agency’s standards.


  • Allowing Tribes access to the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH).


  • Promoting clean energy and sustainable projects by raising the total development cost ceilings cited as barriers to building energy-efficient housing.


An estimated 200,000 housing units are needed immediately in Indian Country and approximately 90,000 Native families are homeless or under-housed.     A 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report found that Native Americans make up 8% of the country’s homeless population, while they comprise less than 1% of the general population.  Nearly 46% of Native households are overcrowded, a rate almost three times that of the rest of the country, according to a 2010 report from the General Accounting Office.


In 2002, NAHASDA was reauthorized for five years, and was again reauthorized in 2008 for a five-year period which expires in September 2013. NAHASDA replaced funding under the 1937 Housing Act with Indian Housing Block Grants and provided Tribes with the choice of administering the block grant themselves or through their existing Indian Housing Authorities or their Tribally-designated housing entities.


Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Postpones First Scheduled Meeting of 2013

By Rob Capriccioso, source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The much scrutinized fiscal decision-making of the U.S. Congress today kept the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) from meeting for its first business session of the year.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., had planned to chair her first business meeting on February 14 of the tribally focused committee she was appointed by Senate leadership to oversee in January.

But the Senate Rules Committee, the committee in charge of handling committee budgets, has not sent Cantwell an operating budget, so her plans were upended, and she was forced to postpone the meeting to a yet unscheduled date in the future.

“The purpose of today’s organizing meeting was for the members of the committee to approve the committee budget,” said Emily Deimel, a spokeswoman for Cantwell. “However, the Senate has yet to provide any of the committees with an operating budget, so we had to postpone today’s meeting until we know what our overall budget will look like.”

In response to a question on when operating budgets are usually handed out, Deimel said, “We should have received them already and at this point do not have a firm timeline.”

SCIA should be able to proceed soon with other types of meetings, including legislative and oversight ones, even with the budget in limbo, Deimel added—a good thing for Indian country, since some Senate staffers have been told that there might not be any finalized committee budgets until Congress decides what it is going to do before the March 1 sequestration deadline. If no deal is worked out between the House and Senate before then, dramatic spending cuts across the board would automatically hit all federal government sectors, including many programs that provide financial support to tribes and Indians.