Tester to Trump Administration: Release $8 Billion in CARES Act Relief for Indian Country

Senator urges Treasury Department to immediately disburse $8 billion in coronavirus economic relief

U.S. Senator Jon Tester is again calling on the Trump Administration to release $8 billion in critical coronavirus economic relief funding for Indian Country from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

In a letter with his colleagues, Tester urged the U.S. Department of Treasury to immediately disburse the $8 billion in relief to help Tribal governments continue operations and keep Native American families safe during the pandemic – funding that was originally omitted from Sen. Mitch McConnell’s pandemic response package.

“The pressing need for CARES Act resources to combat COVID-19 in Native communities across the country is indisputable,” Tester and his colleagues wrote. “Given our shared responsibilities under the United States’ trust and treaty obligations, we respectfully request that the Department immediately disburse the $8 billion in [coronavirus relief funding] so that Tribal governments have access to the funds they were promised.”

This is the third time Tester has called on the Administration to release these critical funds that will help Tribal governments provide essential government services. Without a tax base, Tribes rely on Tribal businesses to generate revenue to fund those essential services including health care, education, public safety, housing and social services—without these Treasury funds, Tribal members’ health and safety are at risk.

“Tribal governments, like their state, local, and territorial counterparts, are relying on this emergency assistance to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and continue providing essential government services to their communities,” Tester and his colleagues continued. “…Tribal leaders emphasize that any further delay will have severe detrimental impacts on their ability to protect public health and spur economic recovery in their communities.”

Tester has led the charge to make sure Native American communities are not left out of the COVID-19 response. He called on the Trump Administration to engage with Tribal leaders to make sure that the CARES Act resources are directed quickly and where they are most needed, and that the federal government lives up to its trust and treaty responsibilities. Tester also 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.

Tester’s letter is available HERE.

Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresources for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak