The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs passed three pieces of legislation for Indian Country this week, including S. 294, a bill to establish a business incubators program within the Department of the Interior to promote economic development in Indian reservation communities.
“Today the Committee passed legislation to preserve Native American languages, provide housing vouchers for homeless Native Veterans and promote economic development,” said Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “The Committee’s passage of these three bills demonstrates our commitment to advancing important tribal legislation and I look forward to continuing this bipartisan work to move Indian Country forward.”
This Native American Business Incubators Program Act—introduced by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, along with U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.)—aims to expand entrepreneurship in Indian Country by promoting small businesses development in Tribal communities. The bill recognizes the unique start-up challenges on reservations, such as difficulty accessing business loans, federal restrictions on leasing and other activities on Tribal trust lands.
The Native American Business Incubators Program Act would create a competitive grant program in the Department of the Interior’s Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development to establish and maintain business incubators that specialize in assisting Native-owned small businesses to navigate those unique challenges.
“I’m proud to support this legislation to give Native entrepreneurs the resources and capital they need to grow and compete on an even playing field,” said Heinrich. “By replicating the successful model of business incubators in tribal communities, we can create more prosperous economic opportunities in Indian Country.”
Since the start of the 116th Congress, the Indian Affairs Committee has passed 15 bills.