US House Passes $3 Trillion Economic Relief Package With $24 Billion for Indian Country

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says the Heroes Act is an “urgently-needed legislation to protect the lives and livelihoods” of U.S. citizens and also the “life of our democracy.” (Photo by Gage Skidmore, Flickr/CC)

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, a stimulus package to protect Americans from the economic impacts of the global coronavirus crisis. 

The $3 trillion relief package (H.R. 6800) delivers aid to the hardest-hit Americans, as well as $1 trillion to state, local and Tribal governments with $24 billion going to help Tribes meet critical needs. 

The $1 trillion for governments includes $500 billion for states, $375 billion for local governments, $20 billion for territories and $20 billion for Tribes (an additional $4 billion for Indian Country is allocated through Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, etc). For a breakdown of how the 1,815-page legislation will support Indian Country, read Native Business’ post, “HEROES Act Includes $20B in Direct Funding to Tribes to Counter Coronavirus Impacts.” 

That $1 trillion to state, local and Tribal governments serves to reduce layoffs, meanwhile $200 billion is designated as a “HEROES Fund” for “hazard pay” for essential workers, and $75 billion will be put toward virus testing. The act authorizes a second round of direct payments to taxpayers of $1,200 per person, and up to $6,000 per household. More than 36 million Americans have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus outbreak. In terms of relief for taxpayers and workers, the HEROES Act provides $75 billion to states, territories and Tribes to provide direct assistance to homeowners for mortgage payments, property taxes, property insurance, utilities and other housing-related costs.

As Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn) points out, “Native American communities are facing extraordinary challenges during this pandemic. Like many minority communities, they are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, both in terms of the devastating loss of life and in economic harm. …This legislation would provide desperately needed funds to Tribal governments and health care facilities, including funds to support Tribal government services, purchase personal protective equipment, increase broadband and telehealth capacity, and provide clean water and safe housing. The federal government has a responsibility to uphold its trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, and this bill is critical to ensure the health and safety of our Native American brothers and sisters.” 

The HEROES Act heads for Senate review, where the largest-ever economic relief package in U.S. history may face scrutiny by Republicans, as the HEROES Act largely passed the House along party lines.