May 01, 2020

Senators to Mnuchin: Disburse $8 Billion in Critical COVID-19 Relief to Tribal Governments Immediately

Treasury Has Not Distributed Any of This Critical Funding, Which was Secured in CARES Act Over a Month Ago

Text of Letter (PDF)


Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to immediately disburse $8 billion in critical relief funds to eligible tribal governments.


The senators say that this emergency assistance, which is part of the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) established in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act, is critical to helping tribal governments—just like their state, local, and territorial counterparts—respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and continue providing essential government services to their communities. But as of May 1, the Treasury Department has not distributed any of this funding.


“The CARES Act was passed over a month ago and contained an express statutory deadline for distribution of the CRF to Tribal governments; however, to date Treasury has not distributed any of this critical funding.  While disbursement of the $8 billion reserved for Tribal governments from the CRF was initially delayed due to litigation, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s April 27 Order makes clear that there are no legal barriers to releasing CRF funding to Tribal governments,” wrote the senators.


Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Angus S. King (I-Maine), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). 


Senator Warren has been very active in working to ensure Indian Country has the resources it needs and is owed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • On March 16, 2020, she introduced the Tribal Medical Supplies Stockpile Access Act (S. 3514), legislation that would guarantee that the Indian Health Service, tribal health authorities, and urban Indian organizations have direct access to the Strategic National Stockpile, a federal repository of drugs and medical supplies that can be tapped if a public health emergency could exhaust local supplies. 

  • On March 5, 2020, she joined Senator Udall's letter to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House Task Force on Coronavirus, urging him to engage meaningfully with tribal leaders and Native communities. 

  • In April 2020, Senator Warren cosponsored Senator Udall's CDC Tribal Public Health Security and Preparedness Act (S. 3486), which would enable tribal nations and tribal organizations to apply directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for Public Health Emergency Preparedness program funds. 

  • On April 22, 2020, she urged President Trump to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to waive the traditional cost-share requirements for all COVID-19-related assistance for the Commonwealth's two federally recognized tribal nations, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

  • On April 1, 2020, Senator Warren also joined colleagues in urging President Trump to ensure that COVID-19 relief is implemented in a way that upholds the federal trust and treaty responsibilities, respects tribal sovereignty, and provides for meaningful government-to-government consultation with tribal nations.

  • On April 8, 2020, she joined two letters to the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration, urging them to make the Paycheck Protection Program (established by the CARES Act) available to all tribal small businesses, as the statute required.

  • On April 29, 2020, she led colleagues in seeking emergency funding for behavioral health organizations in the next coronavirus stimulus package, including funding for Indian Health Service and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration programs that serve American Indian and Alaska Native populations.

  • Also on April 29, 2020, she led colleagues in writing to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), calling on the Administration to fill the gaps in COVID-19 demographic data and to mobilize resources to the hardest hit communities. The letter to the CDC highlighted the lack of CDC funding and resources to tribal governments and organizations to build public health infrastructure in Indian Country, and urged closer tribal collaboration. The letter to Vice President Pence urged meaningfully engaging with Native communities and tribal leaders.