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WASHINGTON — In addition to articles already covered by Native News Online, here is a roundup of other news released from Washington, D.C. that impacts Indian Country during the past week.

FCC Opens Third Filing Window for Emergency Connectivity Funds

March 23, the Federal Communications Commission announced the opening of a third filing window to award at least $1 billion in Emergency Connectivity Fund support to eligible schools and libraries. It will open April 28, 2022 and it will close May 13, 2022. This window will liley be the last opportunity to request funds before the ECF funds are depleted.

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Eligible schools and libraries can submit requests for support and reimbursement for a maximum of 12 months of costs associated with eligible equipment or services during an 18-month funding period. The funding can be used to fund things like supporting off-campus learning, like homework. 

Additional information about the third filing window can be found here.  More details about which schools and libraries have received funding commitments can be found at https://www.fcc.gov/emergency-connectivity-fund

Detailed information on the status of ECF applications is available in the Open Data Portal, including applicant details, requested funds, individual product or service details, funding commitment, and funding disbursement information.  Additional information on the ECF program is available at: https://www.emergencyconnectivityfund.org

Bill to Increase Tribal Public Health Security and Preparedness Introduced

On Thursday, March 31, Senators Heinrich, Warren, and Representative Gallego, and Cole have introduced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tribal Public Health Security and Preparedness Act. This would ensure that Tribal Nations have equal access to funding through the CDC in order to prepare for public health emergencies, like COVID-19. 

Tribal nations are not currently eligible to apply for the CDC’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness cooperative agreement program that provides grants to local public health departments to help them prepare for emergencies. This program is critical funding for state, local, and territorial public health departments. 

The CDC Tribal Public Health Security and Preparedness Act would:

  • Allow tribal nations and tribal organizations to apply directly to the CDC PHEP program; 
  • Require the CDC to fund at least ten tribes for emergency preparedness and include a 5 percent tribal set-aside of total CDC PHEP funds; 
  • Exempt tribes from needing to match funds and waive many of the reporting requirements to minimize the administrative burden on tribal nations; and 
  • Require the CDC to consult with tribal nations and tribal organizations and allow the CDC to make certain modifications to the program to fit the needs of tribal applicants.

CLICK to read the bill

Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations to Hold a Oversight Hearing that Addresses the Opioid Crisis in Tribal Communities

The House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Tuesday, April 5, will hold a hearing to examine how the federal government can fulfill its trust responsibility and support self-determination by providing resources to support programs that address the opioid crisis in tribal communities. 

The opioid epidemic has hit Native communities the hardest, with Native people being almost 50 percent more likely to die of an opioid overdose than any other group. The pandemic heightened these deaths. 

Those who are set to testify: 

  • The Honorable Chuck Hoskin, Jr., Principal Chief, Cherokee Nation
  • Maureen Rosette, Board Member, National Council of Urban Indian Health
  • Wayne Cortez, Peer Support Specialist, Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health, Inc.
  • Art Del Cueto, Vice President, Western Region, National Border Patrol Council (minority witness)

You can watch it here. It is set to take place at 10 AM Eastern Time.

Navajo Nation President Nez Meets with Secretary Haaland and Secretary Buttigieg in Washington to Discuss Roads

On Thursday, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez met with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in Washington D.C., to advocate for policy changes which includes a proposed inter-agency agreement between the two federal departments that would streamline the right-of-way clearance process to expedite the construction of new roads and improvements on the Navajo Nation. 

Similar agreements could potentially be used for other right-of-way issues related to water, power, and broadband development. 

President Nez also highlighted the Nez-Lizer Administration’s transportation white paper titled, “Diné Atiin Bahane: Navajo Road Emergence,” which recommends seven specific federal policy changes intended to improve the Navajo Nation’s transportation system. During Thursday’s meeting with Secretary Buttigieg, officials noted that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill requires the U.S. Department of Transportation and Department of Interior to work together to streamline the approval process on certain projects in Indian Country, reflecting language from the white paper submitted by President Nez to federal officials last year. 

IRS Releases Guidelines on Payments by Tribal Governments to Tribal Citizens from COVID Relief Legislation

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued final frequently asked questions (FAQs) for Payments by Indian Tribal Governments and Alaska Native Corporations to Individuals under COVID- Relief Legislation (FS-2022-23).

These reflect updates to the Draft FAQs, released in May 2021, based on input from tribalgovernment and Alaska Native Corporations leaders.

For purposes of these FAQs, references to tribal members include other eligible recipients of COVID relief payments, such as a tribal member’s dependents. In addition, the answers in FAQs 1-14 relating to the tax treatment and information reporting of payments made from tribes to tribal members should be considered to apply equally to payments made from ANCs to their shareholders and other eligible recipients, such as an ANC shareholder’s dependents.

CLICK to read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), enacted on March 27, 2020, provided a number of emergency relief programs that benefit Indian Tribal Governments (Tribes) and tribal members. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA), enacted on December 27, 2020, extended certain COVID-related tax provisions, and provides for appropriations for COVID-19 emergency response and relief for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021, including additional funds for Tribes. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), enacted on March 11, 2021, also extended previous programs, and added new relief provisions that benefit Tribes and tribal members.

These programs allow Tribes to provide emergency relief payments to tribal members and their families for necessary expenses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Neely Bardwell (descendant of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians), a Michigan State University student who is interning with Native News Online, contributed to these briefs.

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