IHS announces efforts to provide more opportunity for contracting with Indian-owned businesses

Note: The Indian Health Service announced the Buy Indian Act final rule during a media call with Santiago Almaraz on January 13, 2022. What follows is the text of press release from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Indian Health Service is announcing the final rule on the Buy Indian Act to strengthen its requirements to set aside contracts for Indian-owned and controlled businesses.

“Supporting the growth of Native-owned and controlled businesses serving their communities is critical to supporting families facing the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This effort is just one example of our commitment to tribal communities in support of the President’s Build Back Better framework to deliver meaningful outcomes for American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

“With this final rule, we are clarifying the preference for Indian-owned businesses and removing barriers by alleviating unnecessary regulatory burdens,” said IHS Acting Deputy Director Elizabeth Fowler. “We are committed to improving economic conditions and providing more opportunities for Native-owned businesses.”

IHS is aligning its processes with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to facilitate more contracting opportunities for eligible entities under the Buy Indian Act. The rule supports the Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act of 2020, which requires the Indian Health Service and the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs to harmonize Buy Indian Act procurement procedures. The Buy Indian Act is specifically applicable to IHS and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The final rule will:

  • alleviate unnecessary regulatory burden on Indian Economic Enterprises;
  • expand application of the Buy Indian Act to all construction including the planning, design and construction of health care facilities, personnel quarters, and water supply and waste disposal facilities;
  • better adhere to the language of the Buy Indian Act;
  • strengthen oversight of the Buy Indian Act to reduce the potential for fraud and abuse;
  • and clarify the preference for Indian Economic Enterprises;

The IHS held several virtual tribal consultation sessions and received comments after posting the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register in November 2020. Tribes and tribal organizations provided invaluable feedback for the final rule.

More information on the final rule is available in the IHS Buy Indian Act fact sheet.