Udall Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Push for Swift, Effective Implementation of Tribal Provisions of the CARES Act

Letter urges President Trump to uphold the federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Tribes, respecting Tribal sovereignty, and meaningful Tribal consultation
Apr 1, 2020

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NEWS FROM THE U.S. CONGRESS 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 1, 2020

 

Udall Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Push for Swift, Effective Implementation of Tribal Provisions of the CARES Act

 

Letter urges President Trump to uphold the federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Tribes, respecting Tribal sovereignty, and meaningful Tribal consultation

 

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.). vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, led a bipartisan, bicameral group of 18 senators and 12 U.S. representatives in writing to President Donald J. Trump requesting that federal agencies implementing the Tribal provisions of the CARES Act do so in a manner that upholds the federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Tribes, respects Tribal sovereignty and provides for meaningful government-to-government consultation with Indian Tribes. 

 

The lawmakers sent the letter following 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.

 

In their letter to the president, the lawmakers wrote,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.

 

“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, Indian Tribes are reporting severe coronavirus-related economic impacts on their Tribally-owned businesses and assets, which provide their sole source of government revenue as Tribes do not have a tax base like state or local governments. 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 Udall, the letter is signed by U.S. Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), 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.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) 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 M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Paul Cook (R-Calif.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), David Joyce (R-Ohio), Sharice Davids (D-Kansas), Don Young (R-Alaska), Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.), and Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.).

 

The full text of the letter can be found below and HERE.

 

Dear Mr. President,

 

The CARES Act is landmark legislation that provides critical relief to Tribal governments impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Administration undertakes its work to implement this new law, we write to respectfully request that federal resources be deployed expeditiously to Indian Country in a manner consistent with—

 

  • The federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities;
  • Respect for Tribal sovereignty; and
  • The principles of meaningful government-to-government consultation.

 

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.

 

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. This can only be accomplished by engaging in meaningful, robust, and – given the nature of this pandemic crisis – rapid government-to-government consultation.

 

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to continuing our work with your Administration to ensure Indian Country is included in our national COVID-19 response.

 

Sincerely,

 

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Contact: Ned Adriance (Udall) 202.228.6870