Gianforte Demands Immediate Release of Congressionally Approved COVID-19 Aid to Indian Country
A bipartisan group of 23 House lawmakers, including Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), today urged Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to immediately facilitate the transfer of $120 million in COVID-19 relief funds to the Indian Health Service (IHS) for immediate dissemination to Tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian Organizations.
H.R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, appropriated $2.2 billion to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), directing that at least $40 million of those funds be set aside for Tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations. This bill was signed into law on March 6, and yet Tribes still have been unable to access this funding.
The Members of Congress argue that H.R. 6074’s $40 million minimum will not meet Indian Country’s immediate needs and that CDC does not have the proper procedures in place to distribute this funding throughout Indian Country itself. The Members therefore urge that the $40 million set aside be tripled to $120 million and be immediately transferred to IHS, which has the capability to more effectively distribute these resources.
“Every Department of our federal government has a legal trust responsibility to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes established by hundreds of treaties between the U.S. and sovereign Tribes,” the lawmakers write. “In light of the current pandemic, it is more important than ever that we uphold this responsibility by making sure Tribes can access adequate, sorely needed resources in a timely manner.”