By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748) by a vote of 96-0 on Wednesday, March 25. The $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which is Phase III of the federal government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) relief, includes various measures including some that will directly impact Indian Country.
Information from the Indian Health Service (IHS) states that, as of March 25, a total of 2,156 tests have been performed from swabs taken at IHS facilities. A total of 83 have come back positive; 1,125 negative; and the rest are awaiting results. The Cherokee Indian Hospital, operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, has not reported any positive tests.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), chairperson of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a statement, “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.”
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs said in a statement, “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.”
Information from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs states that the legislation will provide the following funding to Indian Country specifically:
* creation of the $8 billion Tribal Stabilization Fund “to provide emergency relief to tribal governments and offset costs incurred by Indian tribes”
* ensure that tribes and tribal businesses “are eligible for the $454 billion loan guarantee funds”
* provide IHS (Indian Health Service) with an additional $1.032 billion “for coronavirus response efforts, including treatment and preventing the spread of COVID-19 on tribal lands”
* provide $100 million for the USDA Food Distribution Program in Indian Country
* provide $453 million for BIA Public Safety and Law Enforcement
* provide $327 million for the BIE (Bureau of Indian Education) and tribal colleges and universities
* provide $305 million for HUD Indian Housing Programs
According to Govtrack.us, “The bill was introduced on an unrelated matter, but on March 25, 2020, the Senate replaced its text in whole with the stimulus bill. The bill would:
* Send $1,200 to each American making $75,000 a year or less.
* Add $600/week to unemployment benefits for four months.
* Give $100 billion to hospitals and health providers and increase Medicare reimbursements for treating coronavirus.
* Give $750 million to food banks, to Puerto Rico and the other territories for food assistance, and to programs for food distribution on American Indian reservations.
* Make $500 billion of loans or investments to businesses, states and municipalities, and $32 billion in grants to the airline industry.
* Relief for those with federally-backed mortgages.
* Delay student loan payments.
Both North Carolina Senators voted in favor of the bill.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said in a statement, “…every individual in North Carolina who reported taxes in 2018, 2019, or revenue through social security, will be eligible for a one-time check in the amount of $1,200 per adult, $500 per child, subject to certain limits at the upper scale of the income. So, after $75,000 up to $100,000, the payment will be reduced, but you will get some economic support. The whole idea of this one-time payment is to help people bridge the gap while we fight the virus.”
The bill now awaits action by the U.S. House of Representatives.