MATTHEW BROWN Associated Press Writer BILLINGS
Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan said Wednesday that the government will offer more than $250 million in housing grants to American Indians and native Alaskans as part of the federal stimulus package. Donovan said the money could reduce crowding on reservations and improve living conditions for Native Americans across the country. He made the announcement after touring the largely impoverished Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation an experience he described as "eye-opening." "It remains, I believe, a great shame to this nation that 40 percent of Native Americans still live in substandard conditions," Donovan said. "That's why this Recovery Act is so important." The competitive grants can be used to purchase land, build new homes and retrofit existing homes to make them more energy efficient. The money comes from the $787 billion stimulus plan signed into law Feb. 17 by President Barack Obama. During last year's closely contested Democratic primary election, Obama and former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton jockeyed for support from Indian communities, considered a crucial voting bloc in states such as Montana and North Dakota.