COVID-19 relief bills include support for Urban Indians
National Council of Urban Indian Health
On December 14, a bipartisan group of lawmakers released two bills totaling $908 billion that would provide economic relief amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including several Indian Country relief measures. The first bill titled “Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020,” provides $748 billion in unemployment assistance, COVID-19 vaccine funding, health care funding, and other emergency relief. The second bill, “Bipartisan State and Local Support and Small Business Protections Act,” allocates $160 billion for state, local, and tribal government aid and liability protection for business.
In summary, the first bill provides the following for Indian Health Service (IHS), tribal organizations, and Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs):
- $1 billion to Indian Health Service in Provider Relief Funds
- $350 million to Indian Health Service for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing purposes
- $129 million from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to Indian Health Service to carry out activities with respect to coronavirus vaccine distribution, administration, and communications
On December 4, 2020, National Council of Urban Indian Health, National Congress of American Indians, and National Indian Health Board wrote a letter to Congress regarding this COVID-19 package. In the letter, the organizations requested $2 billion in emergency funds to Indian Health Service for immediate distribution to the Indian Health Service/Tribal Health Program/UIO (I/T/U) system, a minimum $1 billion to replenish lost third-party reimbursements across the I/T/U system, a minimum five percent I/T/U funding set-aside for vaccine distribution and administration, and long-term reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI).
- Congress is getting closer to an agreement and will likely continue negotiations into the weekend to pass a final relief package.
- National Council of Urban Indian Health will continue to monitor developments.
FUNDING: EMERGENCY CORONAVIRUS RELIEF ACT OF 2020
PUBLIC HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES EMERGENCY FUND
- This bill provides $1 billion in Provider Relief Funds to Indian Health Service to assist its directly operated programs, programs operated by tribes and tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations.
- $700 million shall be used to supplement reduced third-party revenue collections
- $200 million shall be allocated at the discretion of the Director of Indian Health Service for maintenance and improvement projects or construction of existing or new temporary structures necessary to the purposes specified in this Act, for water and sanitation infrastructure, or for other needs at Indian Health Service and tribal facilities
- $100 million shall be allocated at the discretion of the Director of the Indian Health Service for additional expenditures necessary to the purposes specified within this Act
VACCINE TESTING AND CONTACT TRACING
- Provides $350 million to Indian Health Service, which may allocate the funds to tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, or health service providers to tribes for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing purposes
VACCINE DISTRIBUTION AND ADMINISTRATION
- Provides $6 billion for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-wide activities and program support with $2.58 billion to be made available for vaccine distribution and administration
- $129 million shall be allocated to Indian Health Service to fund Indian Health Service directly operated programs, programs operated by tribes and tribal organizations, urban Indian organizations, and health service providers to tribes to carry out activities with respect to coronavirus vaccine distribution, administration, and communications
- The remainder of the $2.58 billion allocation can be made available for other activities regarding COVID-19. This includes grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements to states, localities, territories, tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, or health service providers to tribes to provide additional assistance with distribution and administration of coronavirus vaccines, as determined appropriate by the Secretary
SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
- $3.15 billion allocated for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) program support
- $1.3 billion shall be for the State Opioid Response Grant
- $50 million shall be made available to Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations
FUNDING: BIPARTISAN STATE AND LOCAL SUPPORT AND SMALL BUSINESS PROTECTIONS ACT
CORONAVIRUS LOCAL COMMUNITY STABILIZATION FUND
- Provides $160 billion to the Coronavirus Local Community Stabilization Fund for State and Tribal entities
- Of this amount, $8 billion shall be reserved for tribal entities and 60% be allocated based on the relative population of each tribal entity and 40% based on the number of employees for each tribal entity