Two senators are demanding that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar follow through on mandated reporting requirements and release labor statistics documenting the employment situation in Indian country.
Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) wrote to Salazar today on his department’s failure to release the information, which would also relate to the $3 billion that President Obama’s 2009 stimulus spent on Indian communities.
The Indian Employment, Training, and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992 requires that the secretary of the Interior issue, not less than biannually, a report on the Indian population that includes information on the available labor force and employed population of Indian tribes.
According to a July 2, 2012, letter from Acting Assistant Secretary Donald Laverdure to Indian tribal leaders, the senators write, the 2010 report will not be issued due to “methodology inconsistencies” and the department’s failure to provide clear direction to obtain the specific tribal information for the 2010 report.
“Moreover, Mr. Laverdure’s letter suggests that no further reports will be issued until a new survey instrument is designed after extensive consultation with Indian tribes and other Federal agencies,” Barrasso and Murkowski wrote. “However, the letter fails to state when that consultation will be completed and a new report will be issued.”
“It is unacceptable that reports required by law to be released and the vital information contained therein are being withheld from Congress,” they added.
With the Interior Department website bragging about long-term economic development from stimulus investments in the Indian community, there’s no way to measure how the communities — where, as Laverdure testified before Congress in 2010, unemployment may reach as high as 80 percent.
“We also find unacceptable the Department’s explanation that the process for developing the 2010 report was faulty,” Barrasso and Murkowski wrote. “In fact, in testimony before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs at a hearing on unemployment issues in Indian Country in January 2010, Mr. Laverdure represented that the Department had provided training to Indian tribes to familiarize them with the newly revised reporting tools and how the local data should be collected. He further testified that the report would be published in a timely manner and, eventually, on an annual basis.”
They asked Salazar to immediately release the report or provide a detailed explanation why “the Department of Interior, despite prior assurances otherwise, has failed to comply with the law.”