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How do Indigenous tribes fair in the coronavirus bailout?
Native American sovereign nations have been sidelined in previous economic bailouts and health emergencies. So how do they fare in the $2tn emergency Covid-19 rescue package?
It’s a good start, according to Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
The deal will establish an $8bn ring-fenced tribal government relief fund which should provide tribes with flexible ‘one stop’ direct access to Covid-19 dollars for economic recovery and continuation of essential government services – depending on what each tribe needs.
The direct part is crucial as tribes do not have guaranteed direct access to many state and federal resources during emergencies including the national stockpile of medicines and medical equipment.
The rescue package also contains over $2bn in emergency supplemental funding for health, education and housing, including:
- $1.032 billion for the chronically underfunded Indian Health Service.
- $453 million for essential Tribal government programs including the purchase of protective equipment for emergency personnel – this money will be funneled through the Bureau of Indian Affairs
In a statement, Udall said: “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.”
There are 574 federally recognised tribal nations located across 35 states within the geographic boundaries of the US, including 229 in Alaska.
In 2010, 5.2million people or 1.7% of the total population identified as American Indian or Alaska native, and importantly in election year, 3.1million are of voting age.