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Covid-19 funding in Indian Country hasn’t come easy

The CARES Act included funding for Indian Country. (Image: Full Measure, Facebook)

Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 – a situation that has continued throughout the pandemic.

Securing adequate funding was the first hurdle. But there has been only about $8 billion earmarked for Tribal governments – which is seen by many in Indian Country as a relative drop in the bucket compared to a total $2.2 trillion in the first federal stimulus package – the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”

Then came a struggle for quick and fair distribution of the funds. All of it came as Tribes are already underfunded in a variety of health and economic programs.

In other words, nothing has come easy and it’s been an all-hands-on-deck approach by Tribal leaders and organizations to make sure Indian Country isn’t further left behind.

What did happen

The CARES Act provided $453 million for essential services for Indian Country to prepare for and respond to the pandemic – and keep Tribal government operations in tact.

Monies were also set aside to aid individual Native Americans who faced loss of income and for businesses that saw revenues plummet.

There were specific set asides for health, housing and nutrition assistance programs, as well as education-related needs.

More has been needed, and a second stimulus package has been stalled in the U.S. Congress for months.

Meanwhile, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released its assessment of funds it has distributed in Indian Country and programs it has supported.

As of August, the CDC reported it had provided more than $200 million to Tribal nations for its Covid-19 response.

The CDC said the amount exceeds the minimum of $165 million directed by Congress through the CARES Act and a supplemental bill.

Here are some of the specific allocations the CDC reported:

• $142 million to Tribal nations through a noncompetitive grant to support surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communication, and other Covid-19 preparedness and response activities.

• $50.8 million through supplements to an existing CDC agreement, including $38.8 million to prevent, prepare for and respond to Covid-19.

• $12 million to build public health capacity during the Covid-19 response and recovery to prevent injuries and violence, focus on suicide, adverse childhood experiences and intimate partner violence.

• $12.9 million through supplements to an existing agreement, including $9.9 million to address Covid-19 among Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

• $3 million for the National Indian Health Board to conduct national Covid-19 communication activities for Tribes and supporting training for Tribal health care personnel.

More information is at nihb.org and cdc. gov.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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