News Releases

CARES Act includes over $10 billion for Tribal COVID-19 response

Bipartisan, bicameral legislators urge President Trump, federal agencies to “work directly with Indian Country on deployment of critical funding”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate health committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, joined U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), the vice chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, and a bipartisan, bicameral group of 16 senators and 12 U.S. representatives in a letter to President Trump requesting that federal agencies implementing the Tribal provisions of the CARES Act do so in a manner that upholds the federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Tribes, respects Tribal sovereignty and provides for meaningful government-to-government consultation with Indian Tribes. 

The lawmakers sent the letter following enactment of the CARES Act, the third emergency COVID-19 legislative package, which includes over $10 billion in resources for Native communities’ COVID-19 response. The Indian Health Service is aware of nearly 200 cases of COVID-19 in Indian Country. Of those, almost 10% are in Washington state.

Indian Tribes are reporting severe coronavirus-related economic impacts on their Tribally-owned businesses, which provide revenue for government services. Given these developments and past issues accessing federal resources for the Zika, Ebola, H1N1, and SARS outbreaks, Tribes and urban Indian health organizations are concerned that federal COVID-19 response efforts and resources will not reach them. 

In their letter to the president, the lawmakers wrote, “The U.S. government has specific trust and treaty responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives, responsibilities that all federal agencies share equally. Implementation of the CARES Act will require many federal agencies within DOI, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Treasury, the Small Business Administration, and others to work directly with Indian Country on implementation of complicated new authorities and deployment of critical funding.”

“It is therefore incumbent upon these agencies to respect the inherent sovereignty of Indian Tribes and show deference to Tribal views, particularly as they relate to the use and distribution of CARES Act resources and the Tribal Coronavirus Relief Fund that will make an enormous difference in the everyday lives of their members and communities,” the lawmakers concluded. “This can only be accomplished by engaging in meaningful, robust, and – given the nature of this pandemic crisis – rapid government-to-government consultation.”

In addition to Murray, Cantwell, and Udall, the letter is signed by U.S. Senators John Hoeven (R-ND), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Barrasso (R-WY), Jon Tester (D-MT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Steven Daines (R-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Brian Schatz (D-HI). The letter is also signed by U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D, NM-03), Deb Haaland (D, NM-01), Tom Cole (R, OK-04), Raúl Grijalva (D, AZ-03), Ruben Gallego (D, AZ-07), Paul Cook (R, CA-08), Betty McCollum (D, MN-04), David Joyce (R, OH-14), Sharice Davids (D, KS-03), Don Young (R, AK-At-Large), Xochitl Torres Small (D, NM-02), and Tom O’Halleran (D, AZ-01).

The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below.

Dear Mr. President,

The CARES Act is landmark legislation that provides critical relief to Tribal governments impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Administration undertakes its work to implement this new law, we write to respectfully request that federal resources be deployed expeditiously to Indian Country in a manner consistent with—

–      The federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities;

–      Respect for Tribal sovereignty; and

–      The principles of meaningful government-to-government consultation.

The U.S. government has specific trust and treaty responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives, responsibilities that all federal agencies share equally. Implementation of the CARES Act will require many federal agencies within DOI, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Treasury, the Small Business Administration, and others to work directly with Indian Country on implementation of complicated new authorities and deployment of critical funding.

It is therefore incumbent upon these agencies to respect the inherent sovereignty of Indian Tribes and show deference to Tribal views, particularly as they relate to the use and distribution of CARES Act resources and the Tribal Coronavirus Relief Fund that will make an enormous difference in the everyday lives of their members and communities. This can only be accomplished by engaging in meaningful, robust, and – given the nature of this pandemic crisis – rapid government-to-government consultation.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to continuing our work with your Administration to ensure Indian Country is included in our national COVID-19 response.

Sincerely,

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