Seven Federal agencies have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to 22 different Tribal development programs over a recent four-year period, but have failed to analyze and report on the degree to which that support has helped Tribal communities, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a new report published on Aug. 30.

Due to Tribal communities historically having higher rates of unemployment and poverty, the Federal government administers multiple programs – such as giving grants to tribal businesses – to aid in economic development in these areas.

GAO said, however, that Tribal entities have missed out on “valuable support” from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Commerce (DOC), Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and the Interior, as well as the Small Business Administration (SBA) because they did not maintain and share the data they collected on whether or not the economic development programs are helping Tribal communities.

According to the report, eight of the programs are for Tribal entities only, and provided over $930 million from 2017-2021 in grants and loans. The remaining 14 programs’ total assistance cannot be tracked because USDA and SBA did not analyze their data on the Tribal entities.

“Estimating and reporting the amount of program obligations provided to tribal communities would allow federal agencies and decision makers – including Congress – to better understand the reach of these programs and identify areas where tribal entities may need additional support,” the GAO report says.

The GAO made three recommendations to the DOC, including that the agency maintain information on economic development programs available to tribal entities across the Federal government. They also recommended to both the SBA and USDA that they establish plans to periodically analyze and report the amount of economic development assistance provided to tribal entities.

The three agencies concurred with all of the recommendations.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.