Congress Passes Funding for Indian Country in Phase III Coronavirus Response
Last week, the United States Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which is the third COVID-19 relief package to address the needs of those across the country, including American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The legislation was subsequently passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the President on Friday.
In a statement following the legislation, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said “We worked hard to secure necessary resources to help Tribes combat the coronavirus outbreak. This legislation delivers important resources for Indian Tribes to help health care providers, small businesses, schools, communities, and individuals mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in tribal communities.”
Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) added, “Tribes are on the front lines of this public health crisis, and they have been very clear that they need health, economic, and community COVID-19 recovery resources. That is why I’ve pushed for inclusion of Tribal-specific resources and policies.” Udall serves as vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
The CARES Act will provide $8 billion in the Tribal Stabilization Fund for emergency relief to tribal governments, as well as $1.032 billion to the Indian Health Service (IHS) for coronavirus treatment and prevention.
Tribal businesses will also be eligible for the loan guarantees under the U.S. Small Business Administration Loan Program.
“No doubt ⎯ these are key victories. But the fight to make sure Indian Country isn’t left behind in the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic must continue. Congress must do more to respond to the unique COVID-19 related public health and economic crises in Indian Country and to uphold our trust and treaty responsibilities to all American Indians and Alaska Natives,” Udall urged.
The legislation also provides supplemental funding for Tribal communities through the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Commerce. This brings total resources to $10.314 billion for Native American Tribes.