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Public Statements

Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. NOEM. I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his work on this particular issue.

Madam Chair, we face some specific challenges in Indian Country in South Dakota, and this amendment ensures that 1 percent of the funds within the Workforce Investment Fund would be dedicated towards meeting those needs.

Madam Chair, the three most impoverished counties in the Nation are located in South Dakota. Each of these counties is located on or near reservations, and the poverty rate in these counties hovers around 50 percent.

Life in Indian Country certainly has its challenges, and among those is chronically high unemployment. While some of our tribes face an unemployment rate of around 10 percent, we have one of them, the Rosebud Reservation in Todd County, and the Pine Ridge Reservation in Shannon County, which face almost 80 percent unemployment. Again, this is challenging for Indian Country and needs to be dealt with.

It is very clear that we can and must do better for Indian Country, and making our job-training programs work better through legislation like the SKILLS Act is an effective way to do that. Guaranteeing the set-aside money for Native Americans with this amendment is going to make sure that that is available to them.

I've toured Lakota Foods on the Lower Brule Reservation where they make some of the world's best popcorn. Lakota Foods has over 12 full-time and part-time employees right now. With the right training, they can employ around 50 people.

Also, there is a similar success story in Pine Ridge, where Native American Natural Foods produces Tanka Bars. It is a healthy snack made out of buffalo meat and cranberries inspired by traditional Lakota food. Tanka Bars caught on and are sold in over 3,000 stores now nationwide. With the right training and workforce development, they could expand to over 20 full-time employees.

We need to ensure that tribal businesses like this have an opportunity to survive, and that's the type that we want to have in Indian Country.

I ask for support on this amendment.

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