HEROES Act Includes $20B in Direct Funding to Tribes to Counter Coronavirus Impacts

The newly unveiled House Democratic plan, the HEROES Act, or the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, includes another $20 billion in direct funding for Tribal governments to counter “the fiscal impacts” of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The proposed House package for $3 trillion in coronavirus relief, set for a House vote on Friday, signifies the beginning of negotiations. 

The HEROES Act bill omits for-profit Alaska Native corporations from relief designated for Tribes, using language to define Tribal governments as federally recognized Tribes identified under the List Act of 1994. That provision would additionally apply to the $2.2. Trillion CARES Act, barring ANCs from receiving a share of that $8 billion Tribal set aside. 

READ MORE: Preliminary Injunction: Treasury Cannot Disburse Any Tribal CARES Funding to ANCs 

The HEROES proposal comes as many Tribes nationwide continue to await critical funding assistance through the CARES Act, originally slated for disbursement by Treasury no later than April 26. Federal negligence has put lives at risk, according to Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Tribal assistance is overdue. 

READ MORE: Judge Responds to Tribal Demand for Immediate Delivery of Remaining $3.2B in CARES Relief 

“The Trump administration’s incompetent response to the coronavirus pandemic has failed to improve limited health care infrastructure and has left Tribal nations at the mercy of high coronavirus mortality rates,” states Congressman Grijalva. 

The HEROES measure was created to bring much-needed relief to Tribal communities, many of them enduring the brunt of the worst public health crisis in modern history, exacerbated by problems like health disparities, lack of infrastructure, inadequate medical care, poverty, and more. 

“This bill must pass – and SOON – for Congress to live up to its trust responsibility,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), the chairman of the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States.

The allocation of the $20 billion in funding for Tribal governments through the HEROES Act would be “based on increased aggregate expenditures” of each government or Tribally owned entity in 2020 “relative to aggregate expenditures in fiscal year 2019.”

On top of the $20 billion, the bill would allot $2.1 billion for Native American health care through the Indian Health Service, as well as $900 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, $450 million for the Bureau of Indian Education, and more detailed below. 

The Heroes Act includes each of these Tribal provisions:

Coronavirus Relief Fund: Tribal FiscalRelief – $20 billion in funding to assist Tribal governments with the fiscal impacts of the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus. 

Indian Health Service – $2.1 billion to address health care needs related to coronavirus for Native Americans, including:

  • $1 billion to account for lost third party revenues as a result of reduced medical care.
  • $64 million to assist Urban Indian Organizations.
  • $10 million to assist with sanitation, hydration and hygiene needs in Indian Country necessary to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.
  • $500 million to provide health care, including telehealth services to Native Americans, and to purchase medical supplies and personal protective equipment.
  • $140 million to expand broadband infrastructure and information technology for telehealth and electronic health records system purposes.
  • $20 million to provide health care, housing and isolation units for domestic violence victims and homeless Native Americans.
  • No less than $366 million to provide isolation or quarantine space.

Bureau of Indian Affairs – $900 million to meet tribal government needs necessary to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including:

  • $780 million to continue tribal government operations and programs and to clean tribal facilities.
  • $100 million to address overcrowded housing, which is prohibiting social isolation.
  • $20 million for sanitation needs to provide for hydration and hygiene issues to mitigate and respond to coronavirus.

Bureau of Indian Education – $450 million set aside in the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for programs operated or funded by the Bureau of Indian Education.

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI)– $25 million for financial and technical assistance, training and outreach programs designed to benefit Native American, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native community CDFIs.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs – Provides $4 million for assistance to tribal governments exercising special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction authorized in the Violence against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention – $100 million for tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations or health service providers to tribes. 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – Health Surveillance and Program Support – not less $150 million for tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, or health service providers to tribes across a variety of programs to increase mental health support, substance abuse treatment and increased outreach.  

Department of Transportation (DOT) – $150 million for the Tribal Transportation Program.

Environmental Protection Agency – $50 million for environmental justice grants, including investigating links between pollution exposure and the transmission and health outcomes of coronavirus in environmental justice communities.

Health Care Access for Urban Native Veterans Act – Authorizes the Indian Health Service (IHS), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Department of Defense (DOD) to enter into arrangements for the sharing of medical facilities and services with urban Native American organizations. The VA and DOD shall also reimburse an urban Native American organization where services are provided to beneficiaries eligible for services from either department.

Tribal School Federal Insurance Parity Act – Amends the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to authorize Indian tribes and tribal organizations operating tribally controlled schools the ability to access the Federal Employee Health Benefit program and the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance program.

PRC for Native Veterans Act – Requires the Veterans Health Administration to reimburse the Indian Health Service and tribally run health facilities for Purchased/Referred Care used for treating Native American veterans.

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