Bipartisan Senate Coalition Urges VP to Ensure Coronavirus Resources for Tribes and Urban Native Communities

Mar 18, 2020Congressional Legislation, News

Earlier this month, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) led a bipartisan coalition of his Senate colleagues on a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, urging the administration to meaningfully engage with Tribal leaders and Native communities as it plans its response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic. Udall serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

“The U.S. government has specific trust and treaty responsibilities to provide American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) with comprehensive quality healthcare,” the 27 senators signing the letter wrote. “All federal healthcare-related programs and initiatives ⎯ including the COVID-19 response ⎯ share equally in the requirement to fulfill these trust and treaty obligations.”

The letter comes after the congressional passage of  emergency legislation that provides $40 million for Tribes, Tribal organizations, and Urban Indian Health Organizations affected by the virus.

Some of the early confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. were in states with significant Tribal and urban Indian communities, many of whom are concerned that they will have difficulty accessing resources and efforts. This is largely due to past issues when facing the Zika, Ebola, H1N1, and SARS outbreaks.

“Additionally, to ensure proper precautions and response measures are deployed efficiently, it is imperative that Tribal and urban Indian health teams have access to Congressionally-allocated COVID-19 resources and the most up-to-date information regarding the presence of COVID-19 in their communities,” the letter reads.

For the full letter and list of senators involved, click here.


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