House lawmakers approved the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package Friday, and within hours, President Donald Trump signed the bill into law. H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, allocates more than $10 billion to assist Tribes responding to COVID-19.
“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” Trump said.
The plan delivers significant provisions to American citizens personally and professionally, with one-time payments to individuals and bolstered unemployment insurance — Indian Country included.
Individual Tribal members are likewise eligible for the one-time payments of $1,200 per person, or $2,400 per couple, plus $500 per child, so long as they meet the income requirements of earning no more than $75,000 adjusted gross annual income ($150,000 if married). People may start to receive those payments as fast as three weeks from now.
The bill also includes payment to states to reimburse Tribes, as well as other government agencies and nonprofits, for half of the costs they incur through December 31, 2020, to pay unemployment benefits.
Tribes with smaller casinos that temporarily shuttered due to COVID-19 will take heart in knowing that SBA loans will be forgiven for Tribal businesses with less than 500 employees. But guaranteed loans to Tribal businesses with more than 500 employees will be provided on traditional lending terms, according to Barnes & Thornburg LLP.
While the $2 trillion package is the largest stimulus bill in U.S. history, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has described the bill “as mitigation” of the pandemic’s devastation. She anticipates Congress will draft more plans to aid in recovery.
As U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, expressed: “Tribes have made it abundantly clear that the effects of COVID-19 on Indian Country will be devastating if they do not receive the necessary health care, economic recovery, and infrastructure resources. With the enactment of this emergency package, we will deliver absolutely critical relief to Tribal communities that are on the front lines of this global pandemic – communities that are among the most at risk in our nation. After the White House and Senate Republican leaders proposed leaving Tribes almost completely empty handed in their initial proposal, I am relieved that we were able to secure these urgently-needed resources for Indian Country by staying at the negotiating table and refusing to relent. I will keep working to ensure Tribal communities have the support they need from the federal government to stay healthy and financially afloat in this challenging time.”
The $8 billion Tribal Government Coronavirus Relief fund (the bulk of the more than $10 billion for Indian Country) ensures Indian Tribes have direct “one stop” access to COVID-19 resources for economic recovery and continuation of essential government services based on local needs.
The agreement also contains over $2 billion in emergency supplemental funding for essential federal Indian programs, including:
– $1.032 billion for the Indian Health Service, with significant funds put in the field through Tribal shares and urban organizations;
– $453 million for operation of essential Tribal government programs funded through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, like public safety and purchase of protective equipment for emergency personnel;
– $69 million for the Bureau of Indian Education.
-$100 million for USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
– $300 million for Indian Housing Programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).