USDA Announces Pilot Program to Increase Homeownership Opportunities on Native Lands Department is Partnering with Native Community Development Financial Institutions

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2018 – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is launching a pilot program to increase homeownership opportunities on Tribal lands.

“To thrive, rural America needs a creative and forward-thinking partner in USDA,” Hazlett said. “Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, USDA is harnessing innovation so we can be a better, more effective partner to Tribal communities in building their futures.”

USDA is partnering with two Native Community Development Financial Institutions (NCDFIs) that have extensive experience working in Native American communities. The Department will loan $800,000 each to Mazaska Owecaso Otipit Financial and to Four Bands Community Fund. The organizations will relend the money to eligible homebuyers for mortgages on South Dakota and some North Dakota Tribal trust lands. Mazaska Owecaso Otipit Financial and Four Bands Community Fund also will service the mortgage loans after they are made. USDA is providing the funding through the Single Family Housing Direct Loan program.

Each NCDFI will contribute $200,000 for mortgages in the pilot program.

USDA has helped nearly 4 million rural residents purchase homes since passage of the Housing Act of 1949. However, homeownership rates on Tribal lands historically have been significantly lower than those for other communities.

Both NCDFIs have deep ties to the local communities and will be able to reach potential homebuyers more effectively than USDA and other lenders. Mazaska Owecaso Otipit Financial is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and creates homeownership opportunities for the members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Four Bands Community Fund, headquartered in Eagle Butte, S.D., provides financial products to businesses as well as home mortgages in South Dakota and North Dakota. Part of its service area includes the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.

The pilot program will begin this summer. USDA Rural Development’s state office in Huron, S.D., will oversee the initiative.

In April 2017, The President established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit

South Dakota Wants City Dwellers, Native Americans To Work For Medicaid

Just a few days after Michigan Republicans walked back their controversial plan to exempt several majority-white counties from its proposed Medicaid work requirement after a widespread backlash and accusations of racism, South Dakota unveiled its own proposal that wades into a similar legal and political fight.

The draft waiver the state released this week proposes the implementation of a Medicaid work requirement for a five-year period only in the state’s two most populous counties, Minnehaha and Pennington, home to Sioux Falls and Rapid City respectively. While the both the state and its largest cities are overwhelmingly white, more than two-thirds of the state’s black residents and nearly half of the state’s Hispanic residents live in the two counties where the work requirements would take effect.

The state’s waiver justifies singling out the two counties by arguing that they were selected “based on population and access to employment and training resources,” and says other counties may be added “based on the initial outcomes of the pilot.”

If residents in those two counties who depend on Medicaid aren’t able to prove that they’re spending at least 80 hours per month working, studying, or searching for a job, they could lose their health care coverage.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced he would be pursuing the waiver back in January, saying the new rules would “connect those who can work with jobs that give them that sense of self-worth and accomplishment.” Because South Dakota never expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, the work requirement would be imposed upon people in so-called “traditional Medicaid,” which in South Dakota means people earning up to 58 percent of the federal poverty level.

South Dakota’s waiver also steps squarely into the fight over whether Native Americans should be exempt from the new requirements. American Indian tribes and their supporters in Congress on both sides of the aisle have argued that it would be a violation of tribal sovereignty to force the work requirements on them, but the Trump administration has asserted that exempting Native Americans would be granting an illegal racial preference, and has empowered states to make the call.

South Dakota, which has the fourth-highest percentage of Native Americans in the country, writes that when they consulted with Native American groups while drafting the waiver: “Some of the tribes expressed concern or opposition to the demonstration and requested an exemption for American Indians.” Neither those concerns nor the threat of legal action, however, were not enough to persuade the state from plowing ahead.

“The counties included in the pilot do not include Indian reservations,” the waiver notes. “In addition, the State’s understanding is that CMS has determined that it cannot legally exempt American Indians.”

But Jerilyn Church, the CEO of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board (GPTCHB) in South Dakota, told state officials in a conference call in April that by not granting American Indians an exemption, they were pursuing a policy that was both harmful and illegal.

“Medicaid is an extension of the treaty obligation,” Church said, according to the meeting minutes. “Most American Indians want to work; but, on the reservation there is limited opportunity. … Data is clear that it is harder for American Indians to obtain jobs off the reservation compared to other populations.”

Healthy Eating Research: Building Evidence to Promote Health and Well-Being Among Children

2018 Call for Proposals

    Release Date: May 23, 2018 | Application Deadline: July 18, 2018, 3:00 p.m. ET
Healthy Eating Research (HER) is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) national program, which supports research on policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) strategies with strong potential to promote the health and well-being of children at a population level. Specifically, HER aims to help all children achieve optimal nutrition and a healthy weight. HER grantmaking focuses on children and adolescents from birth to 18, and their families, with a priority on lower-income and racial and ethnic minority populations that are at-risk of poor nutrition and obesity. Findings are expected to advance RWJF’s efforts to ensure that all children and their families have the opportunity and resources to experience the best physical, social, and emotional health possible, promote health equity, and build a Culture of Health.

Healthy Eating Research issues calls for proposals (CFPs) to solicit scientifically rigorous, solution-oriented proposals from investigators representing diverse disciplines and backgrounds. This CFP is for two types of awards aimed at providing advocates, decision-makers, and policymakers with evidence to promote the health and well-being of children through nutritious foods and beverages. The award types are Round 11, small- and large-scale grants. The two funding opportunities are described in more detail beginning on page 2 of the CFP.

You can learn more about Healthy Eating Research at

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

For All Grant Opportunities

  • Preference will be given to applicants that are either public entities or nonprofit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and are not private foundations or Type III supporting organizations. The Foundation may require additional documentation.
  • Applicant organizations must be based in the United States or its territories.
  • The focus of this program is the United States; studies in other countries will be considered only to the extent that they may directly inform U.S. policy.

Key Dates

May 23July 18, 2018 (3 p.m. ET)
RWJF online system available to applicants for concept papers.

June 6, 2018 (3 p.m. ET)
Optional applicant webinar. Registration is required. Please visit the program’s website for complete details and to register.

July 18, 2018 (3 p.m. ET)
Concept papers due. Those submitted after July 18, 2018 (3 p.m. ET) will not be reviewed.

August 13, 2018
Applicants notified whether they are invited to submit a full proposal.

March 13–15, 2019
Healthy Eating Research Annual Meeting

For all grant types, see table in the CFP for separate key dates/deadlines for small-scale vs. large-scale grants.

Total Awards

Approximately $2.6 million will be awarded under this CFP for the two award types. The anticipated allocation of funds is as follows:

  • Approximately $1.6 million will be awarded as small-scale grants, resulting in the funding of up to eight small research grants through this solicitation. Each grant will award up to $200,000 for up to 18 months.
  • Approximately $1 million will be awarded as large-scale grants, resulting in the funding of two large-scale grants through this solicitation. Each grant will award up to $500,000 for up to 24 months.

Sustained Effort Needed to Reduce Infant Mortality In South Dakota

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota’s infant mortality rate increased in 2017, according to new data released today by the Department of Health. There were 12,128 births in 2017 and 94 infant deaths for a rate of 7.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.

The state reported its lowest ever American Indian infant mortality rate of 8.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. The white infant mortality rate was 7 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2016, South Dakota reported a rate of 4.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. Although the state’s infant mortality rate increased in 2017, the average infant mortality rate for the five-year period from 2013 to 2017 is the lowest ever recorded at 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.

“Infant mortality is a complex and multi-faceted issue, and the latest data demonstrates that sustained effort is needed to ensure more South Dakota babies celebrate their first birthday,” said First Lady Linda Daugaard, who chaired the 2011 Governor’s Task Force on Infant Mortality. “We must continue to promote safe sleep guidelines for infants, help pregnant women stop smoking and encourage early prenatal care.”

South Dakota data shows babies are twice as likely to die before their first birthday if their mothers smoke during pregnancy. In 2017, 12.6 percent of pregnant women smoked while pregnant, down from 19.4 percent in 2007. The data also shows 72.2 percent of pregnant women in South Dakota received prenatal care in the first trimester.

“Infant mortality is considered a gold standard for measuring the health of a population,” said Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Secretary of Health. “The Department of Health, in cooperation with partners, is committed to offering statewide services and providing community support to improve the health of all South Dakotans.”

The First Lady noted the state’s Cribs for Kids program has distributed 9,759 safe sleep kits to families in need since its launch in 2012. The kits include a Pack ‘N Play crib, sheet, infant sleep sack, pacifier and safe sleep educational materials.

Learn more about healthy pregnancies and safe sleep guidelines at

Rounds, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Rural Health Care Delivery


Washington,DC— U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today joined Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) to introduce the bipartisan Rural Health Liaison Act. This legislation would improve coordination among the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other health care stakeholders through the creation of a rural health liaison. This legislation is supported by the National Rural Health Association.

“Making sure all South Dakotans, including those in rural areas who live far away from a major hospital or clinic, have access to the same quality of care as those living in big cities is a priority of mine,” said Rounds. “Creating a position within USDA that is solely focused on improving health care in rural areas will help us address the unique health challenges facing our small, sparsely-populated communities. It will also help bridge gaps between USDA and other federal agencies like HHS.”

“As the rural hospital closure crisis and the opioid epidemic escalate in rural America, we need to seek new ways to help struggling rural economies and increase opportunities for rural patients and providers,” said Alan Morgan, CEO, National Rural Health Association. “USDA has experience with working to keep struggling hospitals from closing and is the home to a number of programs critical in providing telehealth services and other rural health resources. Now more than ever, we need a Rural Health Liaison at the USDA to ensure better coordination and streamlining of rural health programs.”

USDA plays a significant role in federal rural development efforts. The agency has the capability to finance the construction of hospitals, to implement telehealth programs, and carry out health education initiatives. The Rural Health Liaison Act would establish a rural health liaison to make sure USDA is fully coordinated and leveraged with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as other important stakeholders.

Under the Rural Health Liaison Act, the newly established Rural Health Liaison would:

  • Consult with HHS on rural health issues and improve communication with all federal agencies;
  • Provide expertise on rural health care issues;
  • Lead and coordinate strategic planning on rural health activities within the USDA; and,
  • Advocate on behalf of the health care and relevant infrastructure needs in rural areas.


After falling for two decades, the death rate for prostate cancer has stopped decreasing and cases of advanced disease are on the rise, researchers reported this morning.
The unwelcome trends roughly coincided with a decline in screening for the disease, the study showed. But the authors added that it isn’t clear whether reduced screening is responsible because cancer incidence and death rates could be affected by many factors.
Nevertheless, the new report is reigniting long-running arguments over the use of screening tests called prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, tests. Some experts had discouraged routine use of PSA blood tests to avoid harm from aggressive treatment for malignancies that didn’t pose a threat; now men are urged to talk to their doctors about it.

Read more » (Washington Post)

New Funding Opportunity Announcement — Vulnerable Rural Hospitals Assistance Program

The Health Resources and Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy has a new program, the Vulnerable Rural Hospitals Assistance Program. This initiative will fund one entity up to $800,000 to provide targeted in-depth assistance to vulnerable rural hospitals struggling to maintain health care services with the goal for residents in those rural communities to continue to have access to essential health services. The awardee will work with individual hospitals and their communities on ways to understand community health needs and resources and find ways to ensure communities can keep needed care locally.

Eligible applicants include domestic public or private, non-profit entities. Domestic faith-based and community-based organizations, tribes, and tribal organizations are also eligible to apply. This eligible applicant (VRHAP recipient) will provide targeted technical assistance to selected rural hospitals in need. Rural hospitals are eligible to receive targeted assistance from the VRHAP recipient. For this cooperative agreement, “rural hospitals” are defined as short-term, non-federal general facilities located outside Metropolitan Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs), or located within Metropolitan areas in locations with Rural-Urban Commuting Area (RUCA) codes of four (4) or greater, or facilities in any location participating in Medicare as Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs). Hospitals operated by tribes and tribal organizations under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (Public Law 93-638, as amended) are also eligible.

Applications are due July 16. If you have any questions about this program, please contact Suzanne Stack:


PIERRE, S.D. – Attorney General Marty Jackley has joined an amicus brief filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by 16 Attorneys General and the Governor of Mississippi. The brief challenges a decision that enjoins a state statute that bans doctors from performing abortions solely because of the gender, race, or disability status of the unborn child and requires abortion providers to either bury or cremate the aborted remains of unborn children.

“The States have a right to prohibit the discriminatory elimination of classes of human beings and to ensure that human remains-including the remains of unborn children- are disposed of in a respectful manner,” said Jackley. “I will continue to forcefully protect the unborn and fight to ensure they are given proper respect.”


Influenza activity was at “Sporadic” level in South Dakota again during the past week.  

·      40 new confirmedcases of influenza were reported last week.   5,971 confirmed cases cumulative so far this season:  4,400Influenza A and 1,571 Influenza B.  *Lab confirmed:  PCR, culture or DFA. The number of laboratories using rapid confirmatory tests has increased, which may account for some of the increase in confirmed cases observed this influenza season.

·      10.64% positive rapid antigen tests reported statewide (25 positives out of 235 individuals tested last week).    Total 46,525 tests performed so far this season.

·      2 new influenza-associated hospitalizations reported last week (Brown and Turner counties).  Total of 867 hospitalizations so far this season.

·      Zero influenza-associated deaths were reported last week. Total of 62 deaths so far this season.

·      1.11% of clinic visits were for influenzalike illness (ILI),36.5% of ILI visits were children 4 years of age and younger.

·      1.53% of K12 students were absent due to any illness, range 0% – 9% absent (147 schools reporting).

South Dakota Dept of Health



Dominate virus



Confirmed cases (Culture, PR, DFA)

Peak week






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A(H1N1) pandemic




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 Not reportable


March 2nd week




 Not reportable


February 3rd week

Median (2004-2017)





February 3rd week

Influenza surveillance website:  

National Synopsis:   Influenza activity has decreased in the United States.

Nationally, 32.6% influenza A and 67.4% influenza B of 86 positive specimens tested in public health laboratories.

Influenza activity by state:

–    WIDESPREAD (highest level) influenza activity in three states;

–    REGIONAL activity in four  States and Guam and Puerto Rico;

–    LOCAL activity in 16 states;

–    SPORADIC activity in 25 states  and the District of Columbia; including South Dakota;

–    NO activity in two states & the US Virgin Islands.

Our neighboring states:

–   LOCAL activity: North Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana.

–   Sporadic Activity: Wyoming

SD Dept of Health website:   SD Dept of Health Facebook: