Shoshone-Bannock Tribes identify priorities for spending $13.7 million in COVID-19 relief funds
The U.S. Treasury has allocated $13.7 million to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall, Idaho through the CARES Act which is intended to be used for COVID-19 relief to Tribal governments. This is 60% of the eligible funding available to the Tribes for the CARES Act, with an additional 40% expected from the U.S. Treasury at some future date. The Fort Hall Business Council has identified seven (7) priorities for expending the funds for the Fort Hall Reservation.
The CARES Act is a wide scale response by the Federal Government to provide assistance across the United States economy and tribal, local, and state governments. To effectively and efficiently take full advantage of the funding the Fort Hall Business Council will use it to offset the necessary expenditures incurred from the pandemic and costs unaccounted for in Tribal governmental departments and program budgets from March 1 to December 30, 2020. This is not intended to recoup the lost revenue from Tribal government and gaming, which the Tribes hope Congress will authorize in the next federal COVID-19 legislation bill that the House recently passed.
In addition to utilizing the Treasury funding for the response to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, the Fort Hall Business Council have identified the following priorities for the Tribes’ to continue responding to the health emergency and provide important measures and education to prevent the virus from spreading and to mitigate any further effects of the pandemic.
1. Increasing the Tribes’ capacity to provide community and emergency information to the entire reservation. Due to the inability to have face-to-face meetings, providing accurate information to the membership and the community is the highest priority. Increasing cell coverage, fiber optic connectivity, securing necessary rights-of-way, and other construction costs not covered by indirect are important parts of this priority.
2. Public health still remains a top priority for the Tribes and the CARES Act funding will ensure effective health services to tribal members, adequate supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), deep cleaning and sanitization of work areas and public spaces.
3. The Tribes have been maintaining necessary government services throughout the outbreak of the pandemic and ensuring those administrative and governmental costs are recouped is another priority of the Council.
4. Beyond the social and health costs incurred by the Reservation because of the pandemic, an additional priority of the Council is to address the loss of revenue that resulted from the national shutdown and local responses. The United States Congress is still determining future relief legislature which may change the current guidelines which block relief funds from being used to address loss of revenue.
5. Emergency management, preparedness, and services are an additional priority identified as necessary to ensure effective responses to emergencies, provide necessary health, food, and medical supplies to members. Emergency preparedness also includes the ability the Tribes and for individuals to respond to a variety of emergencies and crises.
6. Tribal member General Assistance will remain a top priority for COVID19 related needs.
7. Food sovereignty is the ability for the Tribes’ to not rely upon off-Reservation resources for healthy food, and is a significant & necessary step to prepare for future emergencies. The Business Council recognize the need to achieve true food sovereignty, and is seeking to increase our own capability to provide our own food resources on our Reservation. This would be achieved by revitalizing Extension education to tribal members for growing our own food, developing our own food distribution center, and other methods.
These priorities set forth by the Council provide a structure to maintain current responses to the COVID-19 crisis, address current needs on the Reservation, and prepare the community in the case of future emergencies. The Business Council recognizes it will take time to achieve these goals, but it is necessary to ensure the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes can be self-sufficient and be prepared for future emergencies, including the COVID-19 and other potential health emergency situations.