Native American and Alaska Native tribes are supposed to receive $8 billion in COVID-19 relief, but they haven’t seen a cent yet

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  • Dozens of tribal governments have sued the Department of Treasury over $8 billion they’re expected to receive as part of the Trump administration’s $2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package.
  • A judge on Monday blocked the Trump administration’s plan to give the $8 billion to for-profit Native corporations, but 574 federally recognized tribes have yet to receive their shares of the funds. 
  • Tribal governments say they need the funds to provide healthcare, protective gear, and meals to their members amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Tribal governments across the United States are still waiting on $8 billion in COVID-19 relief aid they were promised as part of the government’s $2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package.

Dozens of tribal governments have sued the Treasury Department over the distribution of the $8 billion after the Trump administration said it would give funds to for-profit Native corporations. A federal judge ruled on Monday evening that the Trump administration cannot give the funds to for-profit Native companies, but 574 federally recognized tribes are still waiting for their money, according to HuffPost.

Tribal governments told Buzzfeed News that they need the funds to provide healthcare, protective gear, and other essentials to their members. On Tuesday, tribes asked for the money to be sent immediately, but as of Thursday morning, they had not yet received it.

American Indians and Alaska Natives have a disproportionately higher chance of having underlying health complications like diabetes, asthma, and heart disease, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. They’re also more likely to live in poverty and be uninsured, the HHS said.

Kevin Allis, chief executive of the National Congress of American Indians, told the Washington Post in early April that tribal communities are at risk of higher COVID-19 rates because of underlying health issues.

“When you look at the health disparities in Indian Country — high rates of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, asthma, and then you combine that with the overcrowded housing situation where you have a lot of people in homes with an elder population who may be exposed or carriers — this could be like a wildfire on a reservation and get out of control in a heartbeat,” Allis said.

There are more than 3,100 confirmed COVID-19 cases among federally recognized tribes, the Indian Health Service has reported. Navajo Nation, in particular, has been hit especially hard.

House Democrats pushed for the Treasury Department to distribute funds in a letter on Wednesday, saying: “As you are aware, the detrimental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a disproportionate health care and economic impact on federally recognized tribes due a chronic lack of essential resources.”

“We respectfully request the Treasury Department immediately begin to disburse the $8 billion of Coronavirus Relief Funds to eligible federally recognized tribal governments in compliance with the intended purpose of the COVID-19 relief and in recognition of the negative impact that every day of delay has on the Tribes,” the letter said. “Further postponement in disbursing these funds is unnecessary and works against the federal government’s trust responsibility to the 574 federally recognized tribal nations in the United States.”

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