Merkley, Wyden, Colleagues to Treasury: Disburse $8 Billion in Critical COVID-19 Relief to Tribal Governments Immediately

Merkley, Wyden, Colleagues to Treasury: Disburse $8 Billion in Critical COVID-19 Relief to Tribal Governments Immediately

Treasury has not distributed any of the emergency funding

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with 22 of their colleagues in the Senate, are urging Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to immediately disburse $8 billion in critical relief funds to eligible federally recognized Tribal governments.

The funding, which was allocated by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is critical to helping Tribal governments—just like their state, local and territorial counterparts—respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and continue providing essential government services to their communities. But, as of May 1, the Treasury Department has not distributed any of the funding.

“The CARES Act was passed over a month ago and contained an express statutory deadline for distribution of the CRF to Tribal governments; however, to date Treasury has not distributed any of this critical funding.  While disbursement of the $8 billion reserved for Tribal governments from the CRF was initially delayed due to litigation, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s April 27 Order makes clear that there are no legal barriers to releasing CRF funding to Tribal governments,” wrote the senators.

Senators Merkley and Wyden have recognized that some of the health and economic challenges caused by the coronavirus are felt hardest among tribal communities—and the federal government is not doing enough overall to help tribes. To support tribes, the Senators are pushing not only for the expedient dispersal of the funding, but are also advocating for additional flexible, dedicated resources in upcoming coronavirus emergency relief legislation for tribal communities.

The full text of the letter is available here and follows below.

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Dear Secretary Mnuchin,

We write regarding the $8 billion in critical relief funds intended for Tribal governments from Title V of the CARES Act and to emphasize the urgent need to disburse these funds immediately.

As you know, Title V of the CARES Act authorized the establishment of the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) within the Department of the Treasury to provide direct, expedited support for state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments.  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.

The CARES Act was passed over a month ago and contained an express statutory deadline for distribution of the CRF to Tribal governments; however, to date Treasury has not distributed any of this critical funding.  While disbursement of the $8 billion reserved for Tribal governments from the CRF was initially delayed due to litigation, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s April 27 Order makes clear that there are no legal barriers to releasing CRF funding to Tribal governments. 

In short, Treasury should immediately disburse the $8 billion to eligible federally recognized Tribal governments.  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. 

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

Sincerely,