White House botches release of tribal infrastructure playbook
Link to the playbook is dead on the White House website as of this morning.
Editor’s note, 3:30 p.m.: The White House finally fixed the broken tribal infrastructure link, although they pointed their fixed link to the generic build.gov site, rather than to the tribally-specific build.gov section of the site that their tribal release tried to point to in the first place. To save them some time, this is the tribal hyperlink to which they are trying and failing to direct tribes: https://www.whitehouse.gov/build/bipartisan-infrastructure-law-tribal-playbook.
Editor’s note: See 1 p.m. update at end of this piece — still no fix from the White House.
WASHINGTON — On the heels of the U.S. Interior Department’s plans to hire a tribal infrastructure czar, the White House announced this week the release of a “tribal playbook” focused specifically on Native American infrastructure needs.
This playbook was supposed to be featured on the federal government’s build.gov website, according to the White House, but the hyperlink the White House is currently offering for the playbook is a dead link: https://www.whitehouse.gov/Users/AVRajan/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/Content.Outlook/DVACGF6D/build.gov.
The playbook can be found as of this morning from the White House in PDF form here. Tribal officials tell Indigenous Wire that the rollout and its related information has been difficult to find.
The botched release of the tribal playbook follows increasing questions about poor communications involving tribes and Indigenous citizens from the Biden administration to date. And the GOP is looking to capitalize.
Why now? The White House is framing the difficult-to-find playbook as something new. However, it boils down to a presentation of more detailed ways that it plans to help federal agencies spend and coordinate distribution of the previously announced $13 billion designated for tribes under last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law, according to tribal infrastructure experts who have been able to review the playbook.
No new monies have been designated to tribes as part of the playbook. Tribes are eligible for the same funding as they were last November, when the bill became law. The playbook appears to be more of a political tool for the administration to re-highlight what it has already committed to doing in this area.
Interior officials, who are often tasked with explaining and implementing White House goals involving tribes, pointed back to the White House for its own officials to take responsibility in answering any questions about the playbook.
Two top goals of the playbook, according to the White House:
“Identify programs and sources of funds specifically set aside for Tribal communities under the law.
“Provide a guide to Tribal eligibility for other programs under the law.”
“We are committed to ensuring Indian Country will benefit from this once-in-a-generation investment,” Mitch Landrieu, a White House senior advisor and infrastructure implementation coordinator, said upon release of the playbook. “Building a better America requires these funds to reach Tribal communities that have been left behind for far too long. The President sees you, and major investments are on the way.”
More important than the problematic release of the the playbook, perhaps, was the joint announcement by the Biden administration of a re-start of a 2007 Tribal Infrastructure Task Force (ITF), first established under the George W. Bush administration, to help federal agencies better coordinate tribal infrastructure goals and dollars.
Seven federal agencies, including the U.S Department of Agriculture; the Environmental Protection Agency; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs; the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation; the Department of Health and Human Services, Indian Health Service; and the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all signed an MOU to do so, according to the White House.
The White House has not addressed why more agencies are not part of the initial task force, nor what agencies were asked to join it.
Of note: Some tribal leaders have already testified at recent congressional hearings that they have received no infrastructure dollars to date, despite the Biden administration saying it has already begun to pump tribal dollars out.
Questions: Why are some tribal leaders already receiving money, while others say they are not? Are the funds being distributed equitably? Are some tribes being favored over others? If so, why?
Editor’s note: Link still broken as of 1 p.m. ET, and we’re hearing that Akhil Rajan, part of the White House Infrastructure Implementation Team, hyperlinked it wrong in the initial communications to tribal leaders, which no one caught at the White House:
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