U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed by the Senate March 6 includes more than $31 billion she pushed to help Tribal governments and urban Indigenous communities in Minnesota and across the country address the health and economic fallout from the pandemic. She said the funding represents the largest single infusion of resources for Tribal Nations in U.S. history.
Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said that during the pandemic, Indigenous Americans who contract COVID-19 have been hospitalized at nearly four times the rate of non-Hispanic white Americans, and they die at nearly twice the rate. The loss of Native Elders also threatens the survival of Native languages, traditions, and cultures, she said.
“The ongoing pandemic has hit Tribal communities in Minnesota and across the country especially hard, impacting not only their health care systems, their schools, and their economic well-being, but also the survival of Native culture and traditions,“ said Sen. Smith. “The COVID relief package passed by the Senate is a much-needed response to the devastating impact of the virus, and it will help Indigenous communities recover and become more resilient.“
Sen. Smith said the $31 billion targeted to pandemic relief for Tribal communities includes:
— $20 billion for Tribal governments to combat COVID-19 and continue providing essential government services;
— $6 billion for the Indian Health Service;
— $900 million for Bureau of Indian Affairs programs;
— More than $1.1 billion for Native education programs, including the Bureau of Indian Education schools, Tribal education agencies, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Native Hawaiian education programs, and Alaska Native education programs;
— $1.248 billion for HUD Tribal & Native Hawaiian housing programs; and
— $20 million to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Native languages.
Sen. Smith said hard-hit Native families and communities will also benefit from the relief package, including $1,400 per-person stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment benefits, housing and nutrition assistance, tax relief, and expanded access to mental health services.
After Senate passage, the rescue plan was sent to the House for approval, before it went to President Biden, who signed it into law March 11.