Ways and Means Democrats Urge Trump Administration to Prioritize Tribal Communities in Coronavirus Response Efforts

May 1, 2020
Press Release
The CARES Act authorized $8 billion for sovereign tribal governments that has yet to be disbursed
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, a group of Ways and Means Committee Democrats called on the Department of Treasury (Treasury) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fulfill the intent of Congress and prioritize assistance for tribal communities amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Federally-recognized Indian tribes face unique and dire challenges in the current economic and public health emergency that have been exacerbated by delayed funding.
In a letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and HHS Secretary Azar, Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), along with Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY), Congressman Daniel T. Kildee (D-MI), Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL), Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA), and Congressman John B. Larson (D-CT) outlined how through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Health Care Enhancement Act, Congress intended to specifically support tribal communities and reminded the Administration of their responsibility to tribal nations.
“In light of the dire economic and public health emergency that members of federally-recognized Indian tribes currently face, it is paramount that the Administration act swiftly to fulfill the intent of Congress and disburse billions of federal dollars to assist tribal communities amidst this crisis,” wrote the Ways and Means Democrats.
In regards to Treasury, the lawmakers wrote: “As you know, while the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act set aside $8 billion for sovereign tribal governments through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) has yet to disburse any such funds to date. While we appreciate recent guidance by the Administration to clarify the eligibility of certain tribal businesses under the PPP, more must be done to support tribal businesses in receiving PPP loans.”
The lawmakers continued, “We urge the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure proper consideration for hospitals and health care providers serving tribal communities in future allocations of the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. HHS must keep tribal communities in mind as it works to develop and refine future allocation formulas for the emergency provider fund, especially in light of longstanding disparities in health status and outcomes for federally-recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes.”
In conclusion: “We appreciate the difficulties associated with rapidly disbursing federal funds across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but remind the Administration of the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribal nations.”
Read the full text of the letter HERE.