Udall Pushes to Increase Funding for Indian Health Facilities in Next COVID-19 Relief Package

May 15, 2020Congressional Legislation, News

Last week, United States Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who serves as vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, was joined by  12 of his colleagues in sending a letter to Senate leadership pressing for more funding for the Indian Health Service (IHS), Tribal Health Programs, and Urban Indian Health Organizations (I/T/U). The increased funding is intended to help recoup revenue losses sustained as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Without funding to address these operations funding shortfalls, Tribal and Urban Indian health care facilities may be in danger of closing, and the health disparities that already exist in Indian Country will become further exacerbated,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter follows other pushes to support Indian Country during the pandemic. In March, for example, Congress allocated more than $2 billion in emergency supplemental funds in CARES Act to go to Tribal communities and essential federal Indian programs.

In April, Udall and other Senate Democrats pushed for $750 million in testing for Indian Country as part of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. And earlier this month, Udall and Indian Affairs Committee Chairman John Hoeven (R-N.D.) pressed the Department of Treasury and Small Business Administration to expedite allocating CARES Act funds to Tribal communities.

The Senators also secured a portion of the Provider Relief Fund to help IHS facilities. Last week however, the Department of Health and Human Services stated that they changed their decision to let IHS facilities participate in the Provider Relief Fund targeted allocations, although many IHS facilities are located in distant areas that have seen higher rates of COVID-19.

“We urge you to include a significant appropriation specifically dedicated to supporting I/T/U health care facilities,” the lawmakers concluded. “This will ensure that funding is provided in a way that more closely meets the needs of all IHS assisted families.”

Along with Udall, the letter was signed by Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Angus King (I-Maine), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

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