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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 6, 1998
                            August 6, 1998

Today, President Clinton will attend a conference sponsored by the White House and fifteen federal agencies, "Building Economic Self-Determination in Indian Communities." He will announce several initiatives aimed at improving economic self-sufficiency, increasing educational opportunities, and providing health care to Native Americans. The initiatives focus on: improving student achievement in reading and math for grades K-12; assessing the technology infrastructure needs of Indian country; coordinating existing federal economic development programs for Native Americans; creating a one-stop mortgage center in Indian country to streamline the mortgage process; creating technology-based jobs in Indian country; and adjusting the state funding from the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to reflect accurately states' populations of Native American children. In addition, the President will call on Congress to pass legislation to elevate the Director of the Indian Health Service to an Assistant Secretary.

Creating Educational Opportunities for Native American Students

Native American Education Executive Order. Today, President Clinton will sign an executive order designed to improve the academic performance of American Indian and Alaska Native students in grades K-12. The order focuses special attention on the following five goals: (1) improving student achievement in reading and mathematics; (2) increasing high school completion and post-secondary attendance rates; (3) reducing the influence of long-standing factors that impede educational performance, such as poverty and substance abuse; (4) creating strong, safe, and drug-free school environments conducive to learning; and (5) expanding the use of science and educational technology. This order is structured to address Indian educational needs through participation at the federal, regional, and local levels. At the federal level, the order establishes an Interagency Task Force to plan initiatives, develop an education resource guide, and assist in implementing a comprehensive research agenda on Indian education. At the regional level, the order mandates a series of regional forums to identify promising practices. Finally, at the local level, the order establishes pilot sites that will receive comprehensive technical assistance in support of the goals of the order.

Expanding Economic Development in Indian Country

Executive Directive for Economic Development in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities. The President will announce a directive with three components:

      Technology Infrastructure Study.  The President will direct the
     Department of Commerce, in collaboration with the Department of
     the Interior and tribal governments, to issue a report within
     nine months on the technology infrastructure needs within Indian
     country, including distance learning facilities,
     telecommunications capabilities, and manufacturing facilities.

      Strategic Plan to Coordinate Economic Development.  The
     President also will direct the Department of the Interior, the
     Department of Commerce, and the Small Business Administration to
     develop, within 90 days, a strategic plan for coordinating
     economic development initiatives for Native American and Alaska
     Native communities.  The plan will build upon current efforts in
     the agencies and detail future efforts on matters such as
     providing technical assistance, enhancing infrastructure, and
     developing software.

      One-Stop Mortgage Center.  The President also will direct the
     Departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development, in
     partnership with local tribal governments and in cooperation with
     other federal agencies, to initiate a project to help streamline
     the mortgage lending process in Indian country in order to
     improve access to mortgage loans on Indian reservations.  The
     agencies will initiate this effort through a year-long pilot
     program on the Navajo Nation and in at least one other location.

Providing $70 Million to Create Technology-Based Jobs in Indian Country. The President will announce that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through its Bringing Rural America Venture Opportunities (BRAVO) initiative, will direct $70 million to assist seven American Indian and Alaska Native tribes in establishing small start-up technology companies to obtain government contracts.

Improving Health Care for Native Americans

Legislation to Elevate the Director of the Indian Health Service to an Assistant Secretary. The President will call on Congress to pass legislation to elevate the Director of the Indian Health Service to an Assistant Secretary. This change will strengthen government-to-government relationships; facilitate communication and consultation with the Tribes on matters of Indian health; and raise awareness of Indian health concerns throughout the Department of Health and Human Services and the entire federal government.

Increase Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding in states with large numbers of Native American children by about $20 million. The President will announce a change in the state-by-state allocation of the $24 billion in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to count Native American children appropriately. Under this program, states receive a share of funds based on their proportion of uninsured children below 200 percent of poverty. When the Census Bureau produced these counts last September, it did not count vulnerable Native American children as "uninsured." Thus, even though such children are eligible for CHIP coverage, states with a large number of Native American children did not receive the appropriate share of funds. The President will announce that the Administration will revise these allotments. These revised allotments will be published in October. This effort will build upon the Administration's commitment to improve health care coverage for Native American children. Both the Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs and HHS's Indian Health Service are committed to increase enrollment of uninsured Native American and Alaska Native children, including through the development and distribution of culturally relevant referral information to schools and social services.