US Capitol building

BIG SANDY - Senator Jon Tester and Senator Steve Daines announced Wednesday they are pushing the Trump Administration to work with tribal officials to make sure the $10 billion going to tribes to help with COVID-19 efforts is appropriately allocated.

According to a release from Tester, the Trump Administration waited 14 days to allocate $80 million going towards Native American tribes for COVID-19 healthcare support. The release says Tester obtained $10 billion in federal funding to help financially support tribes with COVID-19 healthcare efforts.

“Indian country faces among the nation’s most dire of circumstances,” Daines wrote in a release. “As the Administration works to implement the CARES Act, we request that the tribal relief fund be administered in a manner flexible enough to provide tribes with the resources they need to cover the unexpected expenses resulting from dramatic reductions in commercial revenue.” 

According to the release from Tester, the money is expected to be allocated in the following:

  • $8 billion is going towards critical funding to help keep governments stabilized
  • $1 billion is going towards tribal healthcare response efforts concerning COVID-19
  • $453 million is going towards assistance programs 
  • More than $300 million is going towards housing, health, safety, education and food allocation throughout reservations.

The following is a release from Senator Tester:

"(Big Sandy, Mont.) – 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."

The following is a release from Senator Daines:

"U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Steve Daines today urged U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to provide tribal communities with flexible funding, that Daines secured in the Coronavirus Economic Recovery Package signed into law last week, to protect tribal economies.

'Indian country faces among the nation’s most dire of circumstances,' Daines wrote. 'As the Administration works to implement the CARES Act, we request that the tribal relief fund be administered in a manner flexible enough to provide tribes with the resources they need to cover the unexpected expenses resulting from dramatic reductions in commercial revenue.' 

To read the full letter, click HERE.

Daines was instrumental in securing over $11 billion in funding for tribal communities, including $8 billion in a Tribal Stabilization Fund in the Coronavirus Economic Recovery Package.

Daines’ work was applauded by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman John Hoeven ahead of the major vote last week: 

'Today, Senator Martha McSally of Arizona and Senator Steve Daines of Montana, both members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, helped secure a significant amount of emergency relief funds for Indian Tribes in the CARES Act, including a historic set aside of $8 billion,' Hoeven said. 'I thank both Senators for their leadership and dedication. By working together to pass this important piece of legislation, we are providing critical assistance to millions of American Indians and Alaska Natives across the country. Now, Indian Tribes will be better able to help their communities’ small businesses, schools, hospitals and clinics weather the challenges of COVID-19. I hope the House swiftly passes this legislation so the Administration can begin getting these resources out to where they are greatly needed.'"

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