Haaland Bill to Break Cycles of Poverty in Native Communities Through Smart Economic Development Awaiting President’s Signature

September 22, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Monday afternoon, a bill introduced by Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM) to break cycles of poverty in Indian Country passed by a voice vote on the House Floor. The bill received bipartisan support from Congressional Native American Caucus Co-Chair Tom Cole (R-OK), Representatives Norma Torres (D-CA), and Don Young (R-AK). The Senate companion to Haaland’s Native American Business Incubators Program Act led by U.S. Senator Tom Udall now moves to the White House for final signature.

If signed into law, the Native American Business Incubators Program Act would increase access to capital for business investment and growth through three-year grants with ties to tribal communities, education institutions, and other organizations to expand assistance to a broad range of business sectors and incubation methods.

Full text of the bill here.

“Native Americans' entrepreneurial spirit can break cycles of poverty, but for far too long, key economic resources have not been available to Native businesses. When I was running my salsa company, I could only imagine how much easier it would have been if I had access to business incubation support. In the midst of a global pandemic and economic recession, Tribal communities need our help now more than ever. The Native American Business Incubators Program Act will ensure that future business owners in Indian Country can grow their enterprises and build strong vibrant economies. It’s an incredible honor to send this bill to the President’s desk alongside Representatives Cole, Torres, and Young and Senator Tom Udall,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Co-Chair of the Native American Caucus.

“In order to break the cycle of poverty in Indian Country, the Native American Business Incubators Program Act will incentivize business by increasing access to capital. Not only will this bill help to boost tribal economies, it will open more opportunities for tribal communities, education institutions and other organizations. I am proud to see this important legislation pass to promote more tribal business” said Congressman Tom Cole, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.

“The story of American success and the climb into the middle class almost always begins with a small business,” said Congresswoman Norma Torres. “Native communities face distinct and unique economic hardships, and they are only made worse by this global pandemic. The Native American Business Incubators Program brings much needed resources into these communities, so they can chart their own course to economic success.”

"I have seen first-hand the great entrepreneurial spirit and grit in our Alaska Native communities," said Congressman Don Young. "Our Native villages and Native American communities across the country deserve access to the resources necessary to make their dreams of business ownership come true. The COVID-19 pandemic means that now, more than ever, resources are needed to assist our Native entrepreneurs. I am proud to support the Native American Business Incubators Program Act to help ensure that we can break the cycle of poverty in our Alaska Native communities, and empower our neighbors to pursue their goals grow their enterprises. As a Member of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of The United States and Vice-Chair of the Native American Caucus, I will continue fighting to ensure that all small businesses in our country can thrive."

Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Tom Udall led the Senate companion bill to the Native American Business Incubators Program Act, which passed the House Monday.

“Small businesses are the cornerstone of strong economies and communities, but hardworking Native American entrepreneurs often run into difficulties getting their businesses off the ground,” said Senator Tom Udall, Vice Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. “I introduced this legislation to help Native American business owners navigate through red tape, gain access to start-up capital, and set their business up for success. And, as Indian Country faces new financial hurdles due to the Trump administration’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, economic investments and support for Native small businesses are needed now more than ever. I’m proud to partner with Congresswoman Haaland on this bill to provide important resources to help businesses in Indian Country build foundations for success and continue powering their communities forward.”

Poverty and unemployment rates in tribal communities are nearly triple the national average. Federal programs designed to support the social and economic well-being of Native Americans remain chronically underfunded and sometimes inefficiently structured, which leaves many basic needs in the Native American community unmet and contributes to the inequities observed in Native American communities.

This bill requires the Department of the Interior to establish a grant program in the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development for establishing and operating business incubators that serve Native American communities.