Get Coronavirus Relief to Indian Country, Tester Urges Administration

Administration Senator: “There is no room for error in getting this money out the door… the health and safety of our Native American communities depends on it”

After the Trump Administration delayed the disbursing of $80 million in critical health care funds to help Tribes combat COVID-19 for nearly two weeks, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is pressing President Trump to make sure the newest $10 billion Tester secured for Indian Country is distributed quickly and properly.

Tester urged the Administration to engage with Tribal leaders to make sure that the resources are directed where they are most needed, and that the federal government lives up to its trust and treaty responsibilities.

“Delaying the initial rollout of $80 million in critical health care funds for Indian Country shook a lot of Montanans’ faith that their government would live up to its promises to bring relief in the face of this crisis,” Tester said. “We’ve secured $10 billion for Tribes to combat COVID-19, and there is no room for error in getting that money out the door-the Administration needs to work double time to deliver these critical tools to our Native American communities when their health and safety depends on it.”

Tester fought to secure $10 billion to strengthen Indian Country’s response to the COVID-19 crisis that was originally omitted from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s response package, and worked hand-in-hand with Tribal leaders over the nearly 72 hours of final, bipartisan negotiations to ensure the bill included funds targeted at relief for Indian Country.

The $10 billion Tester delivered for Indian Country includes $8 billion in emergency funds to help Tribal governments stay afloat, $1 billion for the Indian Health Service to support Tribal health care system response efforts, $453 million to provide aid to programs funded through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and more than $300 million in funding for housing, public health and safety, schools, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and food distribution on Indian Reservations.

“The U.S. government has specific trust and treaty responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives, responsibilities that all federal agencies share equally,” Tester wrote in his letter to the Trump Administration. “Implementation of the [Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act] will require many federal agencies within DOI, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Treasury, the Small Business Administration, and others to work directly with Indian Country on implementation of complicated new authorities and deployment of critical funding.”

Tester has led the charge to make sure Native American communities are not left out of the COVID-19 response. He demanded U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar release $80 million Congress appropriated as a part of the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act after a nearly two week delay, and has pressed the Administration to work with Native American communities and Tribal leaders in coordinating their response to the outbreak.

Full text of Tester’s letter HERE.

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