A bipartisan group of lawmakers has urged the federal government to rush aid to tribal communities best by COVID-19.
The $2 trillion federal stimulus package earmarked some $10 billion to help tribes deal with the pandemic. Already, the Navajo Nation has more than 214 confirmed cases and seven deaths, with a high risk population and limited access to healthcare.
Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema and lawmakers from both the House and Senate urged the administration to swiftly release funding.
“Critical resources guaranteed by the CARES Act for Tribal communities in Arizona will save lives and help reduce the spread of the coronavirus,” said Sinema.
The $2 trillion federal stimulus package included $8 billion in tribal relief funds and $2 billion in emergency funding for Indian Health Services, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other federal programs that deal with the tribes.
Most tribal communities already suffer from high unemployment, lack of access to healthcare and health conditions that make COVID-19 much more dangerous – like diabetes.
Many tribes in Arizona have struggled to contain the spread of the virus. The Navajo Nation has one of the largest clusters of cases in the country, with 214 cases and seven deaths. The Nation is living with a “shelter in place” order, but lacks the medical facilities to deal with the outbreak – with 40 or 50 new cases reported daily in the past several days. The cases include 97 in Navajo County, 22 in Apache County, 49 in Coconino County and another 46 in Utah and New Mexico.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez in a press release said, “We’re two weeks into this pandemic and we need many more test kits, we need testing labs in our communities so we can get results much quicker. The public needs to be mindful that these numbers are going to continue to increase if every family, every individual does not follow the advice of health care experts.We’re working around the clock to get the word out, but ultimately, it’s the decision of every individual. Stay home, stay safe, save lives!”
In an earlier release, Nez said health care providers on the reservation have a critical and dangerous shortage of supplies to confront the pandemic, including gloves, masks and gowns. “We are in dire need of Personal Protective Equipment and many other resources. As we approach the peak of this pandemic in the coming weeks, we will require the continued support and coordination.”
For more information including reports, helpful prevention tips, and more resources, please visit the Navajo Department of Health’s COVID-19 website. To contact the main Navajo Health Command Operations Center, please call (928) 871-7014.
Sinema, along with a bipartisan group in the House and Senate urged the administration to quickly deploy resources to the Tribal communities while respecting Tribal sovereignty.
The U.S. Department of Treasury and Indian Affairs are seeking input from Tribes on developing how the Coronavirus Relief Fund will be allocated to tribal governments. For more information visit: https://www.bia.gov/covid-19/cares-act.
Provisions in the stimulus bill to help tribal communities include:
Below is a brief summary of the CARES Act benefits and funds specifically set-aside for tribes:
• $1.032 billion for the Indian Health Service (IHS) Services Account, including $65 million for electronic records, $125 million for IHS facilities, $450 million distributed to Direct Service Tribes and Self-Governance Tribes
• Minimum of $125 million in set-aside funding for Tribes and Tribal organizations under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
• Minimum of $15 million in set-aside funding for Tribes and Tribal organizations under Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
• Minimum $15 million in set-aside funding for Tribes and Tribal organizations for health-related needs.
• $300 million under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA)
• $100 million for the Food Distribution Program for Indians Reservations
• $8 billion for tribal enterprises