Urban Indian organizations and communities reeling from coronavirus funding delay

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Urban Indian organizations have received no funding from COVID-19 emergency bill

News Release

National Council of Urban Indian Health

To date, urban Indian organizations (UIOs) across the country have yet to receive any federal funding from the $8.3 billion emergency supplemental appropriations to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, despite having been specifically listed in the legislation. urban Indian organizations already have an immediate funding need for services and supplies to combat the pandemic, and as the urgency, infection rate, and death toll intensifies, urban Indian organizations will need more funding resources to protect and preserve human life.

“As Congress and the Administration is working hard to address COVID-19, we are gravely concerned about the timeline for funds and resources to Indian Country. We have seen urban areas be adversely impacted by this virus and our Urban Indian Organizations have yet to receive any funding from the Administration despite Congress including urban Indian organizations in the bill. Lives are at stake and time is of the essence for action as our programs are already tackling this crisis without the resources they need,” said Francys Crevier, Executive Director of National Council of Urban Indian Health.

The National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH) partnered with the National Indian Health Board, National Congress of American Indians, Native American Finance Officers Association, and the United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund in a letter to Congressional appropriators detailing the need for urban Indian organization COVID-19 emergency supplies and services funding to be set at a minimum of $58-$94 million. Urban Indian organizations receive primary Indian Health Service funding from only one line item in the Indian Health Service budget, which provides a mere $57,684,000 for urban Indian health. 41 urban Indian organizations that operate 74 health facilities in 22 states are thus faced with significantly constrained budgets.

With over two-thirds of the American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) population living in urban areas, urban Indian organizations fill a crucial gap in the health care system for American Indians/Alaska Natives that do not have access to more remote facilities run by the Indian Health Service (IHS). Urban Indian organizations must receive this critical funding without delay so that they may continue to provide high quality care to their patients while also managing local outbreaks and minimizing risks to their communities. 

Urban Indian organizations already have an immediate need for access to the emergency funding appropriated by Congress, as many are located in some of the hardest-hit areas of the United States.

  • The Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley, the UIO in San Jose, California, is at the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, where it confirmed its first COVID-19 case on March 13 and cases have increased more than threefold in that area over the past few days. In Utah, the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake has several patients who were exposed to COVID-19 through a March 9 event where a number of girls interacted directly with Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert (the namesake of Rudy’s Kids Foundation) – who tested positive for COVID-19 two days later.
  • The Urban Indian Organization located in Seattle, WA, an area currently experiencing a significant level of outbreak, is projecting a monthly loss of $734,922 during this pandemic.
  • These are only a few examples of the impacts urban Indian organizations are already experiencing – yet they have not received any COVID-19 funding to date.

On March 6, H.R.6074, the “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020” (Act) became law. The Act provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, and includes at least $950,000,000 for states, localities, tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations. A further proviso provides that “not less than $40,000,000 of such funds shall be allocated to tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, or health service providers to tribes” through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Grants or cooperative agreements with urban Indian health organizations will be to carry out surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communications, and other preparedness and response activities to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19, as well as to reimburse costs for these purposes incurred between January 20 and March 6, 2020.

National Council of Urban Indian Health will continue to monitor this rapidly evolving situation, the ongoing health risks to American Indian/Alaska Native patients, and the urban Indian communities where they reside.

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