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Posted: March 19, 2020

Dante Desiderio (Sappony) of Native American Finance Officers Association. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

COVID-19 Legislative Efforts and Updates

March 19, 2020

NAFOA is working diligently to make sure Indian Country is included in any legislative relief efforts related to COVID-19. This is a summary of the coordinated actions of the national and regional Native organizations to date.  We will continue to keep the NAFOA community updated as the situation evolves.

March 6: The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 was signed into law. This legislation provides at least $40 million dollars for “tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, or health service providers to tribes, to carry out surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communications, and other preparedness and response activities.” A summary can be found here.

March 7: the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) submitted a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services advising how the $40 million tribal set-aside could best be distributed to get needed resources to Indian Country quickly and efficiently.

March 17:  NAFOA, NCAI, and NIHB convened a Tribal Leader Town Hall on the COVID-19 pandemic to discuss updates and policy implications. Nearly 500 individuals attended the webinar. A recording can be found here. A PDF of the slides presented can be found here.

March 18: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law. The legislation guarantees free coronavirus testing, establishes paid leave, enhances Unemployment Insurance, expands food security initiatives, and increases federal Medicaid funding. The act specifically allocates $64 million to the Indian Health Service to cover the costs of COVID-19 diagnostic testing for Indians receiving care through the Indian Health Service or through an Urban Indian Health Organization. The Act ensures coverage of testing for COVID-19 at no cost sharing for Indians receiving contract health services. Additionally, the Act provides nutrition services for older Native Americans. A summary can be found here.

Next: Congress is currently working through a third relief package that is expected to pass soon. It is slated to provide $1.2 trillion dollars in relief to individuals, governments, and industries. The tribal priorities we are advocating for are focused on healthcare and health system capacity, economic development, and governance. We have been working with Senate and House offices across the aisle to ensure that tribes are meaningfully included in this package. We will send out more details as they develop.

Congress is expected to pass several more phases of legislation over the coming weeks and months.



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