House releases continuing resolution without any COVID-19 assistance for Indian Country

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Bill includes temporary flat funding for Indian Health Service including Urban Indian Health, extends Special Diabetes Program for Indians

News Release

National Council of Urban Indian Health 

Yesterday, the House of Representatives released a proposed continuing resolution (CR) to avert a shutdown that would provide flat funding (current FY20 levels) through December 11, 2020. The proposed bill would temporarily fund the Indian Health Service (IHS) including the Urban Indian health programs. The proposal includes a fifth short term extension of the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) and would only extend Special Diabetes Program for Indians funding for 11 days as the program was set to expire on November 30.

Urban Indian Health - $57.7 Million

  • The urban Indian health line item will be funded at its current level of $57,684,000 per year, which with inflation is a decrease in funding since FY2020.
  • The continuing resolution includes $43 million less than the FY21 request of $106 million for UIOs from the Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup.

Congress fails to provide immediate, urgently needed COVID-19 assistance to Indian Country

On September 8, the National Council of Urban Indian Health joined the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in sending a letter to congressional leadership urging emergency appropriations for the Indian health system with the continuing resolution or in a COVID-19 package. This is absolutely necessary for upholding the trust responsibility of the federal government to address the devastating impact of COVID-19 in Indian Country.

Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported COVID-19 positive rates among AI/ANs are 3.5 times higher than for non-Hispanic Whites. Despite this, Indian Country was last appropriated funds in the CARES Act on March 27, 2020, and has gone without any further assistance from Congress to date. 

The September 8 letter included five urgent requests to help Indian Country:

  • Minimum $2 billion in emergency funds to Indian Health Service for immediate distribution to I/T/U system
  • Minimum $1 billion to replenish lost 3rd party reimbursements across the I/T/U system
  • Prioritize equitable distribution of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine across Indian Country, including a minimum 5% set-aside in vaccine funds for the I/T/U system
  • Minimum $1 billion for water and sanitation systems across Indian Health Service and Tribal communities
  • Passage of the bipartisan S.3937 – Special Diabetes Program for Indians Reauthorization Act of 2020

Next Steps

The House is aiming to vote on the continuing resolution this week, however, it is not known if the Senate or Administration support the resolution. While the House previously passed an entire FY 2021 budget the Senate has failed to vote on any appropriations bills. A continuing resolution will need to be passed before September 30 to avoid a government shutdown. Democrats will likely hold a vote this week and negotiations between Senate leadership and the Administration over the continuing resolution will continue.

National Council of Urban Indian Health will continue to monitor the situation and to advocate for urgent action on COVID-19 in Indian Country and for long-term reauthorization of Special Diabetes Program for Indians.

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