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WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The act now goes to the White House for President Joe Biden who is scheduled to sign it into law on Friday. The vote was split right down party lines. Every Democrat voted on the bill. Every Republican voted against the relief package that is supported by 75 percent of Americans.

Of the $1.9 trillion package, $31.2 billion has been allocated to Indian Country. It is the largest amount of money ever allocated for American Indian/Alaska Native programs in history. 

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), in what may be her last major vote in the House of Representatives because she is likely to be confirmed as the secretary of the Dept. of the Interior next week, was proud to cast her vote in favor of the bill.

“As someone who lived in poverty and didn’t have a savings for most of my adult life, I know what it’s like to be one emergency away from being homeless. This pandemic has put a strain on New Mexico families, hospital workers, small businesses, and many families who have lost multiple family members to this horrible virus,” Rep. Deb Haaland said. “Everyone in our state deserves to feel whole again. That’s why the American Rescue Plan is so important. With $1400 checks in people’s pockets and extended unemployment benefits, New Mexicans will have immediate financial stability, and long term investments for vaccine distribution will make sure we can get more vaccines into people’s arms and teachers and students are safe to go back to school while jump starting an equitable recovery.”

“Native communities need relief. We listened, and we took action. With more than $31 billion for Tribal governments and Native programs, the American Rescue Plan delivers the largest one-time investment to Native communities in history,” said Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “This historic funding is a down payment on the federal government’s trust responsibility to Native communities and will empower American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians to tackle COVID-19’s impacts on their communities.”

Praise came from Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, who during the past year has presided over the Navajo Nation that has seen the highest number of positive Covid-19 cases and most deaths among tribal nations and communities. 

“We appreciate the support of Congress and our federal partners and for working together with our administration to ensure that all tribal nations were included in the American Recovery Plan. We look forward to President Biden signing the measure into law and we are eager to continue working with the Department of the Treasury. The bill provides significant discretion for the Secretary of the Treasury to determine funding for each tribe,” Nez said.

The American Rescue Plan will do the following: 

  • $1,400 checks to Americans 
  • Mounting a national vaccination program
  • Extending unemployment insurance
  • Reopening schools, safely 

The American Rescue Plan will provide following American Indian/Alaska Native health provisions:

  • $6.094 billion in funding for Indian health programs
  • $2 billion for lost revenue
  • $500 million for Purchased/Referred Care
  • $140 million for information technologies, telehealth, and electronic health records infrastructure
  • $84 million for urban Indian health programs
  • $600 million for vaccine-related activities
  • $1.5 billion for testing, tracing, and mitigating COVID-19
  • $240 million for public health workforce
  • $420 million for mental and behavioral health prevention and treatment services among Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations
  • $600 million for funding support of tribal health care facilities and infrastructure
  • $10 million for potable water delivery

This is how the American Rescue Plan will directly assist Tribes: 

Housing Assistance and Supportive Programs for Native Americans: This change clarifies that the funds reserved for the Department of Hawaiian Homelands are not solely for emergency rental assistance purposes.

COVID-19 Response Resources for the Preservation and Maintenance of Native American Languages: This change increased funding for the Administration for Native Americans for emergency grants to Native American communities whose language revitalization and maintenance activities have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic to $20,000,000.

Bureau of Indian Education: This change would appropriate the $850 million in COVID-19 education relief funds allocated to the Bureau of Indian Education directly to the Bureau of Indian Education, rather than first flowing through the Department of Education. It further extends the deadline by which the Bureau must allocate these funds from 30 days to 45 days. And, finally, it clarifies that the Bureau may use a portion of these funds to carry out administrative activities for federally operated Bureau schools.

American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education: This change adds a new section to the Committee on Indian Affairs’ Title that appropriates $190 million to the Department of Education for grants to Tribal education agencies, Native Hawaiian education organizations, and Alaska Native education organizations. The Department may use these funds for new or supplemental awards to eligible entities for purposes authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title on American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native education.

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