Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today pressed federal agencies to implement the tribal provisions of the CARES Act swiftly and in a manner that upholds the federal trust and treaty responsibilities to tribes, respects tribal sovereignty and provides for meaningful government-to-government consultation in Oregon and nationwide.
The senators, along with colleagues in the Senate and House, sent a letter to Donald Trump following the enactment of the CARES Act, the third emergency COVID-19 legislative package, which includes over $10 billion in resources for native communities’ COVID-19 response.
“The U.S. government has specific trust and treaty responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives, responsibilities that all federal agencies share equally. Implementation of the CARES 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,” the lawmakers wrote.
“It is therefore incumbent upon these agencies to respect the inherent sovereignty of Indian Tribes and show deference to Tribal views, particularly as they relate to the use and distribution of CARES Act resources and the Tribal Coronavirus Relief Fund that will make an enormous difference in the everyday lives of their members and communities,” the lawmakers concluded. “This can only be accomplished by engaging in meaningful, robust, and – given the nature of this pandemic crisis – rapid government-to-government consultation.”
The Indian Health Service is aware of nearly 200 cases of COVID-19 in Indian Country. Additionally, tribes are reporting severe coronavirus-related economic impacts on their tribally-owned businesses and assets, which provide their sole source of government revenue. Given these developments and past issues accessing federal resources for the Zika, Ebola, H1N1, and SARS outbreaks, tribes and urban Indian health organizations are concerned that federal COVID-19 response efforts and resources will not reach them.
In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the letter is signed by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Steven Daines (R-Mont.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). The letter is also signed by U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Ruben Gallego (D- Ariz.), Paul Cook (R-CA), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), David Joyce (R-Ohio), Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), Don Young (R-AZ), Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.), and Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.).
The full text of the letter can be found here.
A web version of this release is here.