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SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Board of Directors voted to establish the Covid-19 Rescue Act Membership Assistance Program on Tuesday evening that will provide grants up to $2,000 if a tribal citizen can prove they were financially burdened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The program is intended to protect the health and welfare of the tribal membership and ensure reasonable resources are available to respond to negative economic impacts of the Covid-19 public health emergency.

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The newly created program’s funds will come from federal funds the Sault Tribe received from the American Rescue Plan Act that was signed by President Joe Biden signed the legislation sent to him from Congress.

The program passed on Tuesday by the board of directors differed from a proposal released last week by Sault Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment, which would have would appropriated another $1,000 allocation to all service area members and a $2,000 amount for Members who live outside of the service area to bring all Sault tribal citizens to an equal amount of $2,000 each.

“While not fully satisfied that my comprehensive proposal to treat all Sault Tribe Members equally across our fall and recent distribution, I am nonetheless pleased that for the first time in our tribe’s history, we did not neglect our at large members," Payment told Native News Online on Tuesday night.  "Once I obtain a written clarification from the US Treasury that there is no federal prohibition from catching up our at large member to an equal amount, I will bring forward a resolution and also reintroduce tribal Legislation to bring relief to our employment team members”

The board of directors maintained they followed legal guidance and  the Department of Treasury’s published guidance to date.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is the largest populated tribe east of the Mississippi River with over 45,000 tribal citizens.

Eligible expenses under the program include, but are not limited to medical, housing, health related goods or services, food, transportation for medical appointments, funeral costs, and similar expenses.

A Covid-19 Rescue Act Membership Assistance Program application form must be completed by each Tribal member in order to be eligible to receive potential assistance through the Program.  The forms are tentatively slated to be mailed out within the upcoming weeks and shall also be available electronically.

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