Farmington — With two-thirds of the tribal budget coming from federal funding, tribal officials continued to closely monitor the debate surrounding a possible shutdown of the federal government on Monday.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and his staff were receiving updates throughout the day from the Navajo Nation Washington Office. Shelly's spokesman Erny Zah said the president would like the federal government to avoid a closure.
"We have contingency plans in place so that key government services continue," Zah said.
When asked the details of those plans, Zah could not explain but said whatever the outcome is at the federal level, tribal officials will do what they can to continue operating programs and services as normally as possible.
Zah said personnel from the tribe's Office of Management and Budget were to submit updated contingency plans Monday afternoon.
In a statement released Monday by the president's office, Shelly expressed his dismay that Congress was failing to honor its trust responsibility to tribes.
"It is unconscionable that the federal government will come to a complete halt due to a few unreasonable members of Congress," Shelly said. "They have one primary role, to fund the government, and they need to do their job."
He added that hospitals, law enforcement and social services will remain operational but programs such as tribal colleges and Head Start could be impacted.
Questions about the impact of the possible shutdown on the Indian Health Service were referred to the service's headquarters in Rockville, Md.
A request for comment from IHS officials was not returned as of press time Monday but a spokeswoman from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which includes IHS, emailed a copy of the department's contingency staffing plan for operations.
According to the contingency plan, IHS would continue to provide direct clinical health care services as well as referrals for contracted services to non-IHS facilities.
If the shutdown continues, IHS would be unable to provide funding to tribes and urban Indian health programs except when necessary to meet the immediate needs of patients, medical staff and medical facilities.
Nationally, the Department of Health and Human Services planned to furlough 52 percent of its employees.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs also had a contingency plan that shows 2,528 employees would be furloughed. The plan identified 1,585 personnel who would not be furloughed because they work in law enforcement or protect federal property and prevent harm.
As for the Bureau of Indian Education, its contingency plan lists a primary duty of continuing to provide instructional and educational services at its schools but 180 employees are facing furlough nationally.
The BIE operates 59 elementary and secondary schools, two post-secondary institutions and provides technical assistance to 125 tribally controlled elementary and secondary schools and 25 tribally controlled community colleges throughout the country.