Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Native Americans were disproportionately affected by the virus when compared to their White people.
The $1.9 trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Joe Biden has set aside substantial funding for tribal communities and Indigenous communities. More than $31 billion was earmarked for tribal governments and other federal programs to help Native populations in the latest stimulus package, according to New York Times. This marks a significant difference from the previous administration when Indigenous communities received little federal funding in their fight against the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly in half the states, Native Americans were disproportionately affected by the virus when comapred to their white counterparts. Navajo Nation was one of the worse affected regions in the United States, reported The Guardian. The Democrats are hoping to address the racial inequities and low federal funding and the stimulus package appears to be the first step in that direction.
The $31 billion is the single largest infusion of resources to tribal communities in American history. “We can see every single day that this pandemic has not been the great equalizer. It has affected most the people who are already at risk and already dealing with real challenges,” said Senator Tina Smith, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, KVRR. The Minnesota Democrat said the funding was vital in fighting the pandemic as the Indigenous Americans who contract coronavirus are four times more likely than non-Hispanic white Americans to be hospitalized and two times more likely to die from it. “These dollars are going to help them to shore up their budgets, so that they can keep people employed, they’re going to help to support their education systems and their health systems,” said Smith. Not a single Republican voted for the bill.
Of the $31 billion, $20 billion will be given to tribal governments, $6 Billion for the Indian Health Service and other Native American health systems, with $1.1 billion earmarked for native education programs. More than $1 billion is set aside for housing while $20 million will be utilized to reduce the impact of coronavirus on native languages. This was followed by the confirmation of Deb Haaland as interior secretary, making her the first Native American woman to serve in a cabinet. The $31 billion is in addition to the $8 billion allocated to tribal governments by Congress last March as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus law. The stimulus package will look to address some of the issues that contributed to the deadly spread of the pandemic, including poverty, multigenerational housing, and underlying health conditions. “Our promise to them has always been—on any of these issues—they will have a seat at the table,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “It’s essential that we’re listening to the specific issues.”
I love New Mexico. It's my home, where I raised my child, went to college, started a small business & started organizing. It’s my ancestral homeland. As Congresswoman I’ve been able to serve NM to the fullest. And I'm proud of the work we accomplished together. pic.twitter.com/Qx67Ih9ur7— Rep. Deb Haaland (@RepDebHaaland) March 16, 2021
Last year, a federal judge was forced to intervene and order Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to distribute $679 million in emergency Coronavirus relief funds to Native American tribes after crucial aid was delayed for months on end, according to The Huffington Post. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta chided the Trump administration for causing irreparable harm” with its delays. “Continued delay in the face of an exceptional public health crisis is no longer acceptable,” said U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta. The judge pinned the blame on Mnuchin. “That amount is being withheld of the Secretary’s own accord,” said Mehta. “The Secretary’s withholding of $679 million ‘to resolve any potentially adverse decision in litigation’ … simply cannot be justified.” Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, hit out at the administration. “It continues to be a shameful scandal that the Trump administration has dawdled with this funding while people in Native communities are getting sick and dying, and while businesses and essential services are shuttering,” said Udall.
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