By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
President Trump signed into law H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) on Friday, March 27 following a voice vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. The $2 trillion relief package, which includes billions for Indian Country, passed in the Senate on March 25.
In remarks made at the signing of the bill, President Trump noted, “…I want to thank Republicans and Democrats for coming together, setting aside their differences, and putting America first. This legislation provides for direct payments to individuals and unprecedented support to small businesses. We’re going to keep our small businesses strong and our big businesses strong. And, that’s keeping our country strong and our jobs strong.”
A large part of the bill provides for stimulus checks. To see how much you will receive, follow this link to a stimulus check calculator:
Following the bill’s passage and signage into law, leaders in Indian Country spoke of its importance.
“This legislation is not only a monumental achievement for Indian County, it is a landmark affirmation of tribal governmental parity and the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations to tribal nations,” Kevin J. Allis, NCAI (National Congress of American Indians) chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Indian Country achieved this victory through the around-the-clock efforts of tribal leaders and advocates across the nation working as one to ensure that the needs of tribal governments and communities are addressed in the weeks and months to come. Unity is our greatest asset.”
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chairperson of the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, said in a statement, “This pandemic is showing the many cracks in our nation’s ability to take care of its own people, and those failures were already glaring in Indian Country and the U.S. territories before the virus reached our shores. This bill is a good first step in protecting public health and keeping families afloat in the middle of an economic crisis.”
His statement continued, “The next bill we pass needs to do more than keep our heads above water for a few more months – it needs to put our country on a path to ending the health and economic disparities we can no longer take for granted. Allowing millions of Americans to live in poverty, with no meaningful health care, has been a policy choice, not a necessity, and the bill has come due. It’s time for Congress to put human quality of life ahead of corporate insistence on low wages and weak benefits from now on.”
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), a member of the Laguna Pueblo and the vice chairperson of the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, said in a statement, “No community should be left behind during this pandemic, but it was an all-out fight with the Administration and Republicans in the Senate to ensure Tribes, urban Indian organizations, and tribal organizations have the resources they need to keep Native American communities healthy and supported economically. We fought for it every step of the way, especially the $8 billion for tribes in the relief package to ensure Native Americans have the same access to health care resources and economic support as other governments.”
Information from the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, outlines some of the funding the bill provides to Indian Country:
* establishes the $8 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for tribal governments and tribally-owned entities “to use for expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency in the face of revenue declines”
* provides $1.032 billion to IHS (Indian Health Service) “including expanded support for medical services, equipment, supplies and public health education for IHS director service, tribally-operated and urban Indian health care facilities”
* extends the Special Diabetes Program for Indians through November 2020
* provides $453 million to the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) in various aid packages to tribal governments
* provides $70-96 million in Indian Child Care Development Block Grants
* provides $69 million to the BIE (Bureau of Indian Education)
* provides $200 million to the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act Block Grant Program
* provides $100 million for the Food Distribution Program for Indian Reservations
Following the bill’s passage in the Senate, 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.”