Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 21, 2020

Native Americans delivering innovative relief with CARES Act funds

Mashpee food pantry tasting party.

Native American Nations are providing direct financial aid to members under federal CARES Act 

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Updated Aug. 21, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic in Indian country is resulting in severe hardships across the country, from food insecurity to the pressing need for laptops for distance learning.

Many Native American Nations are providing direct financial relief to members with federal CARES Act funding, from the Nooksack, Mashpee Wampanoag, Red Lake Ojibwe, and  Lac Courte Ojibwe to the Choctaw, Quapaw, Wichita, Citizen Potawatomi, Cherokee, Winnebego, Pyramid Lake Paiute, Sagway, Yurok and Zuni Pueblo.

Traditional smoked salmon, telemedicine and services for the homeless are among the priorities of the Nooksack Nation in Washington State, near the Canadian border. With CARES Act funding, Nooksack are providing traditional smoked salmon and shrimp for its people during this pandemic.

Nooksack elder care packages are out for delivery.
Along with financial aid for members, Nooksack, with 1,904 members, are using funds for telemedicine for virtual health care, food home delivery and care packages for the elderly, face maks, isolation kits, hazard pay for frontline workers, temporary hospital beds, a certified teacher for homeschooling, and services for the homeless.

The Yurok Tribe in California is the latest to respond to the needs of students and online classes.

The Yurok Tribal Council passed unanimously a resolution for distance learning tools in August, for all enrolled Yurok tribal member youths. The iPads are for 4 to 17-year-olds and the LeapFrog tablets are for 2 to 3-year-olds. The iPads will have the Bluetooth keyboard included.

The Sagway Traditional Council in Alaska found an innovative way to deliver relief to Tlingit and Haida. Tribal members can request credits based on needs, such as $2,000 at the grocery store and $1,000 at the utilities. There's free fish as well.

The Red Lake Ojibwe Nation in Minnesota is the latest to provide $1,000 relief payments to tribal members over 18. Tribal members will fill out a form to document hardships from the coronavirus pandemic.

Red Lake is also urging those in quarantine to call the tribe for the delivery of food, cleaning supplies and a care package.

Red Lake Nation Secretary Sam Strong, said on Friday, "Today the Tribal Council approved a payment to compensate for hardships as a result of the COVID-19 virus in the amount of $1,000 to Tribal Members ages 18 and older as of July 31st."

The Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma has an extensive pandemic relief assistance program that could come become a model program using the CARES Act funds.

The Choctaw Nation is meeting the needs of children, adults, elderly, college students and workers, based on individual needs during the coronavirus pandemic, while adhering to the strict spending guidelines of the federal CARES Act.

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma COVID-19 Relief Fund is providing Choctaw children with $400 to help with the costs of laptops and technology. There is also a provision of $300 for each child's school clothes.

College students are also receiving aid. The $1,150 allowance is based on the need for housing insecurity and overcrowding, online fees, extra travel costs, lost wages, professional consulting, tutoring and technology as a result of the pandemic. The program will award $400 related to technology and $750 related to the remaining hardship categories.

With the pandemic compounding food insecurity and health problems, Choctaw elderly can receive $200 each month for food until December, along with $500 for three months to assist with rent.

The unemployed, as well as the under-employed, are receiving help.

The Choctaw Nation is providing $1,000 for those laid off from work. "Eligible expenses include rent, mortgage payments, electric, water, fuel, daycare, car payments, car insurance and COBRA health premiums," the tribe said.

There is a $250 assistance for those who are working and being paid below poverty guidelines. There are also upcoming virtual sessions for small businesses. They will be able to participate in virtual business trainings to assist them with developing new business models as a result of the pandemic. Read more.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Nation in Massachusetts -- which recently survived an attempt by the U.S. government to destroy its nation status -- is providing a $1,800 payment to each tribal member with CARES Act funds for those 18 and older who submit an application showing economic need. The application forms are due by August 7, 2020.

The funds are for living expenses, food, housing, utilities, medical and other expenses during the pandemic, the tribe said, pointing out the high cost of living in Massachusetts.

Winnebego purchasing homes for quarantine now, and long term rentals later

Ho-Chunk Lance Morgan in Nebraska said, "The Winnebago Tribe is using some federal Cares Act funding to order these small 2 bedroom houses from our company, Dynamic Homes, in Minnesota. They can be built quickly and will be used for quarantine housing and will eventually be used for long term rentals for tribal members. We can deliver to tribes in the upper Midwest." 

ZUNI, NEW MEXICO -- Before the arrival of federal CARES Act funds, volunteers raised their own funds to provide emergency food for their communities, including volunteers in Zuni, New Mexico. Photo Zuni Emergency Mobile Pantry.

Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico is providing $1,000 CARES Act assistance to Pueblo members.

The COVID-19 Emergency Financial Support Assistance Program will provide the one-time non-taxable economic relief to maintain adequate housing, transportation, food, water, medication, medical care, utilities, and basic life necessities during the pandemic, the Pueblo said.

In May, the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes in Oklahoma announced it would provide emergency relief to tribal members 18 and older, with a $1,000 relief payment.

"We have many tribal members that have had unforeseen financial needs and risks that have been created by the COVID-19 public health emergency," Terri Parton, president of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, told the Oklahoman.

The Lac Courte Oreilles  Anishinabeg (Ojibwe) in Wisconsin extended its relief for adults and children to include members living away from tribal land.

On June 8, the Tribal Governing Board unanimously approved extending the CARES Act payment of $1,000 per adult and $500 per child to every tribal member nationwide.

The Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Oklahoma is providing financial relief for individuals and businesses.

The Tribal Legislature adopted a resolution creating the COVID-19 Crisis Compliance Department to adhere to the regulations by the federal government.

The Tribal Legislature also established a maximum payment of up to $1,200 per qualifying individual and up to $5,000 per qualifying Tribal member-owned business.

“In order to ensure the Nation meets the legal obligations established for the use of these funds as set by the United States Congress and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Tribe is required to keep a diligent accounting of all funds used during this time,” said CPN Tribal Attorney George Wright.

Quapaw Chairman John L. Berrey announced in June that each of the 5,400 Quapaw Nation enrolled members would  receive a lump sum directly from the Nation’s Northeast Oklahoma office.

“Every adult over 18 years old will receive $1,000. Every child under 18 will receive $500. So, a Quapaw family of, say, two adults and two children will receive $3,000, and we know it’s coming at a time of great need,” Chairman Berrey told KOAM News.

“I’m so happy we are able to do this.”

CHEROKEE NATION: The Cherokee Nation received two of its refrigerated trucks in June, paid for from a portion of CARES Act stimulus funds. The tribe owned just one refrigerated truck before #COVID19 hit for its regularly operated USDA food program, having to rent more refrigerated trucks through the pandemic to deliver emergency food packages to elders. The trucks will not only help citizens through COVID, but in any future emergencies, such as flooding or tornadoes. -- Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma

The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma is purchasing protective gear and funding food and medical relief with its CARES Act funds.

"The largest emergency food distribution effort in Cherokee Nation history, in response to COVID-19, helped some 45,000 Cherokee elders and individuals who needed assistance with food security," the tribe said.

The plan creates grants to help schools increase distance learning capabilities and provides relief funds to fire departments, police departments, food banks and Cherokee community organizations. Another $32 million is earmarked to complete health projects, including the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation and Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center, and potentially establish a future epidemiological center.

Rising numbers of coronavirus cases on Cherokee Nation

Currently, the Cherokee Nation is encouraging members to take precautions as the number of positive COVID-19 cases has increased by more than 200 percent in just 30 days. As of August 4, the Cherokee Nation Health Services has reported 856 positive cases, up from 219 cases on June 27.

The Cherokee Nation temporarily closed its Child Development Center in Tahlequah on July 29 after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The Center, operated by the Cherokee Nation, has up to 50 children enrolled, with about 25 children attending daily.
In Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the first class of 54 student doctors to be accepted into the new Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation received their 'white coats' during a small virtual ceremony in Tahlequah that was live-streamed. The first class, which includes 12 Natives, started classes on Monday, Aug. 3, with the aim to graduate in four years as trained primary care physicians with experience serving rural and Native American populations. Read more.
In regards to the CARES Act funds, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said, “During this crisis, it was our mission to help our citizens and communities remain safe and receive the aid they needed during such a trying time."

“This spirit of helping Cherokees is in our nature, just as it was with our ancestors.”

The Pyramid Lake Paiute in Nevada said in May that it will issue three checks of $2,000 to members from CARES funds. Currently there is an application as well for grant funding for higher education using CARES Act funds.

Copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News.

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