April 01, 2020

Warren Joins Bipartisan, Bicameral Push for Swift, Effective Implementation of Tribal Provisions of the CARES Act

Letter led by Sen. Udall urges President Trump to uphold the federal trust and treaty responsibilities to tribal nations, respecting tribal sovereignty, and meaningful tribal consultation

Text of Letter (PDF)


Washington, DC — United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs,  today wrote to President Donald Trump requesting that federal agencies implementing the tribal provisions of the CARES Act do so in a manner that upholds the federal trust and treaty responsibilities to tribal nations, respects tribal sovereignty, and provides for meaningful government-to-government consultation with tribal nations. Udall and Warren were joined by a bipartisan, bicameral group of 17 senators and 12 representatives. 


The lawmakers sent the letter following enactment of the CARES Act, the third emergency COVID-19 legislative package, which includes over $10 billion in resources for Native communities’ COVID-19 response.


In their letter to the president, the lawmakers wrote,The U.S. government has specific trust and treaty responsibilities to American Indians and Alaska Natives, responsibilities that all federal agencies share equally. Implementation of the CARES Act will require many federal agencies within DOI, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Treasury, the Small Business Administration, and others to work directly with Indian Country on implementation of complicated new authorities and deployment of critical funding.


“It is therefore incumbent upon these agencies to respect the inherent sovereignty of Indian Tribes and show deference to Tribal views, particularly as they relate to the use and distribution of CARES Act resources and the Tribal Coronavirus Relief Fund that will make an enormous difference in the everyday lives of their members and communities,” the lawmakers concluded. “This can only be accomplished by engaging in meaningful, robust, and – given the nature of this pandemic crisis – rapid government-to-government consultation.”


The Indian Health Service is aware of nearly 200 cases of COVID-19 in Indian Country. Additionally, tribal nations are reporting severe coronavirus-related economic impacts on their tribally owned businesses and assets, which in many cases provide their sole source of government revenue because tribal nations do not have tax bases like state or local governments. Given these developments and past issues accessing federal resources for the Zika, Ebola, H1N1, and SARS outbreaks, tribal nations and urban Indian health organizations are concerned that federal COVID-19 response efforts and resources will not reach them. 


In addition to Senators Warren and Udall, the letter is signed by U.S. Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Steven Daines (R-Mont.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). The letter is also signed by U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Paul Cook (R-Calif.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), David Joyce (R-Ohio), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.), and Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.).


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. 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 access to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), a federal repository of drugs and medical supplies that can be tapped if a public health emergency could exhaust local supplies. 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. 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.