Tribal leaders in Arizona call on U.S. Treasury and Small Business Administration to ensure COVID-19 relief funds are available to tribal enterprises

(Photo: Intertribal Association of Arizona Facebook Page)

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Tribal leaders working hard to find solutions to barriers blocking Tribes and their economic development enterprises

News Release

Inter Tribal Association of Arizona

During weekly emergency teleconference calls with members of Arizona’s congressional delegation, Member Tribes of the Inter Tribal Association of Arizona (ITAA) made urgent requests to elected officials to ensure they will receive COVID-19 relief funds on parity with other local governments and businesses. As some of the largest employers for the counties where they reside, including neighboring towns and communities, tribal leaders are working hard to find solutions to the many barriers that block Tribes and their economic development enterprises from receiving COVID-19 relief.

Shan Lewis, Vice Chairman of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe and Inter Tribal Association of Arizona President, released the following statement regarding the delayed availability of federal funding under the CARES Act: 

“Tribal leaders in Arizona are deeply concerned with the lack of clarity and slow action of the federal government in providing access to both the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the $8 Billion in Tribal assistance funds provided by Congress under the CARES Act. Tribal governments urgently need support for their COVID-19 response now, not in days or weeks.” 

Lewis also stated: “Inter Tribal Association of Arizona’s 21 Member Tribes have taken significant and immediate action to protect the public health by closing their economic development enterprises across the state. These tribal businesses provide the vast majority of funding for essential government services, including those needed to address the COVID-19 crisis. While many of Inter Tribal Association of Arizona’s Member Tribes have kept their employees on the payroll during this time, smaller, rural Tribes must be able to immediately access the Paycheck Protection Program, which Congress specifically authorized for Tribal enterprises with less than 500 employees. This help is needed now to prevent irreparable harm to our employees and to our Tribal enterprises.” 

During the COVID-19 global public health emergency, Arizona Tribes have been on the front lines in protecting both Tribal members and the broader public. Tribal economic enterprises, such as casinos, hotels and other tourism and hospitality enterprises, provide thousands of jobs in Arizona to their tribal members and non-tribal members alike, often serving as the largest employers in rural communities across the state. Congress, recognizing the importance of Tribal enterprises in funding essential governmental services and providing employment in rural economies, explicitly included relief for Tribal governments and their Tribal economic enterprises in the CARES Act. 

“Congress authorized $8 Billion for relief for Tribal governments in the CARES Act. This must be quickly and fairly allocated by the Department of the Treasury, without any further delay,” said Lewis. 

The Inter Tribal Association of Arizona is a consortium of 21 federally recognized Tribes in Arizona which, since 1952, has been governed by the highest elected leaders of each Tribe. Inter Tribal Association of Arizona serves as a forum for public policy and advocacy on common issues and concerns that impact its Member Tribes.

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