The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes conduct onsite COVID-19 testing for all their Lucky Star Casino and government employees in preparation for reopening their gaming facilities and government offices. (Courtesy Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes / Facebook)
On Tuesday, May 5 the Treasury Department began paying out $4.8 billion of the $8 billion in relief funding promised to Tribes in the CARES Act, or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes received approximately $54 million of that, and like all Tribes who received funds, have until December 30, 2020 to decide how best to use it for pandemic relief.
The Executive and Legislative branches of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes have been meeting to discuss just that, and have come up with 16 ways to put the CARES Act funds to good use.
“Discussion has been centered around the lack of Tribal resources to properly handle a virus pandemic, including COVID-19, if our Tribal communities were to be significantly impacted by the virus,” stated Tribal Governor Reggie Wassana in a statement. “This list is a summary of what is planned and many of the projects outlined are for the prevention, preparedness and response to COVID-19. As we continue to look for ways to address this virus, we welcome any input and suggestions from our Tribal members.”
Some of the projects the Tribe will undertake over the following eight months include:
- Partial funding for the expansion of the El Reno Indian Clinic in order to efficiently address COVID-19 related medical needs in the event of a community outbreak.
- Partial funding for the construction of an emergency medical services and emergency management facility. Currently, the Tribes’ capacity to address a pandemic of this scale is inadequate and such facilities will assist with a successful pandemic response.
- The renovation and building of Tribal community halls to be used for medical staging areas in the event of an outbreak that hospitals are not able to handle. The Tribal community halls lack basic infrastructure including adequate plumbing and technology capabilities, which are important during the pandemic.
- Partial funding of a meat processing plant to process bison and cattle to be used for food assistance for Tribal members during instances of food shortages during a pandemic.
- Food assistance cards through the Tribe’s HOPE program for those directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Direct emergency financial assistance to Tribal members impacted by COVID-19 for the use of food purchases due to the continuous rise in food costs, for purchasing personal protective equipment, paying past due utilities, rent, and mortgage payments, as well as other emergency financial burdens caused by COVID-19.
- Funding necessary measures to address online or home school requirements if public schools remain closed.
- Purchasing personal protective equipment including masks, gloves, sanitizing supplies, and other equipment need to protect Tribal members from COVID-19 and other pandemic viruses.
- The purchase of a new Tribal ambulance to help respond to Tribal members in need of emergency COVID-19 assistance and other emergency situations.
- Funding of a COVID-19 response health task force that will provide contact tracing, Tribal updates on data and information related to COVID-19 on a national, state, and local level for more informed decision making at the Tribal level, hiring of additional staff to assist with contact tracing, providing medical and health guidance to Tribal employees and Tribal members on how to best protect themselves against the coronavirus, among other necessary prevention and response duties.
- Tracking of elders and vulnerable populations within our Tribe to assure necessary precautions and actions are being taken to protect these individuals.
- Increasing Wifi capacity.
- Cover administrative cost of essential employees salaries who are tasked with mitigating COVID-19 within our Tribes and communities. These employees have been working daily to continue to provide essential services to Tribal members, COVID-19 planning and organizing and addressing daily Tribal matters.
- Hazard pay for essential employees continuing to work during the pandemic.
- Continuous high capacity cleaning of all Tribal facilities throughout the pandemic.
- Purchasing of community vehicles to deliver food, personal protective equipment, and other needed items within the community during the pandemic.
“We are working diligently to address this pandemic with our Tribal member’s health and wellbeing being our number one priority,” Wassana said. “ We continue to encourage each Tribal member to continue practicing social distancing, washing your hands, checking on your elders, and praying for each other and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.”