12/08/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/08/2021 22:12
WASHINGTON - Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 5119, bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Tom O'Halleran (AZ-01) and Congressman Don Young (R-AK-AL) to extend the coverage of Coronavirus Relief Fund payments allocated under the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to tribal governments from December 30, 2021, to December 30, 2022.
"At the beginning of the pandemic, bureaucratic red tape and disorganization within federal agencies forced tribes across America to go with no aid for over a month; during this time, the Navajo Nation in Arizona's First Congressional District became the most concentrated COVID-19 hotspot in the nation, and tribes all across our state lost far too many elders, friends, and neighbors," said O'Halleran. "Our bill ensures sovereign tribal nations have adequate time to allocate the monies they are owed to most effectively address and recover from this ongoing pandemic. I'm pleased to see this much-needed legislation pass the House today and urge the Senate to act on it without delay."
The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020, allocating $8 billion for tribal governments under the Coronavirus Relief Fund. However, tribes across America did not receive any funds until May 5, 2020, well after the bill's statutory deadline. During this time, the Navajo Nation in Arizona's First Congressional District became the most concentrated COVID-19 hotspot in the nation.
WATCH O'Halleran speak on the House Floor in support of tribal communities during COVID-19 in May of 2020 HERE.
"I am very proud to help lead House passage of this bill with my good friend, Congressman O'Halleran. But we must not forget, the clock is ticking for countless Indigenous people in Alaska and across the country," said Young. "The Senate must now act with great urgency. The CARES Act was an essential piece of legislation that came at a critical time. But for all the assistance it provided for Alaska Native and Native American communities, bureaucratic red tape has delayed the disbursement of these critically needed funds. Our cause is an important one for Tribes and Tribal organizations. As it stands, approximately $16 million has not been distributed, and up to $400 million has not been spent. The best stewards of federal resources are those closest to the people. Very frankly, Native Americans know their communities best, making this a worthy cause to get behind. I am pleased with today's progress, but this is not done until it is done. Indigenous people were some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and pulling the rug out from under them by letting an arbitrary deadline take away these needed resources is a flagrant violation of our federal trust responsibility. We must avert this catastrophe. I call on my House and Senate colleagues to join myself and Congressman O'Halleran in this fight and get it done."