WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) introduced legislation that extends the coverage of Coronavirus Relief Fund payments allocated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to tribal governments from December 30, 2020, to December 30, 2022.
The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, allocated $8 billion for tribal governments under the Coronavirus Relief Fund. However, Indian Country did not receive any funds until May 5, 2020, well after the bill’s statutory deadline. This bill is the Senate companion to bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) and Paul Cook (R-Calif.).
“Tribal communities ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic received federal resources and relief far too late – pitting them right up against fast approaching spending deadlines,” said Heinrich. “This bipartisan legislation will allow tribal governments extra time to address the planning needs for these critical funds. As we continue to deal with the impacts of COVID-19, I will do everything in my power to fight for the resources that tribal communities need for a strong public health response and responsible timetables that allow tribal governments to build a broad economic recovery.”
“This bipartisan legislation ensures that our most vulnerable populations in Indian Country receive the support they need to combat COVID-19,” said Daines. “By extending the deadline for aid we can ensure every Tribe has the resources they need and the full opportunity to utilize these funds and fight the pandemic.”
The bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by the National Congress of American Indians.
“It is imperative that this bipartisan legislation is passed to guarantee that all tribal nations can fully utilize the funds that Congress made available in the CARES Act,” said Kevin Allis, CEO of the National Congress of American Indians. “As COVID-19 has continued to evolve in Indian Country the needs of tribal nations and their citizens have grown. This bill creates a path forward that allows tribal nations the much needed breathing room to use all funds in response to their on the ground needs.”