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National Center CEO: COVID-19 Stimulus a Good First Step for Tribes, Native-Owned Businesses

Below is a statement from Chris James, President and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, on the $2.2 trillion COVID-19 economic stimulus legislation. The bill passed the Senate by a 96-0 vote on Wednesday, March 25 and is expected to be considered by the House of Representatives by Friday. The legislation contains $8 billion in funding for tribes, and provides other direct and programmatic support for small businesses.

“Tribes and tribal entities are hit particularly hard by COVID-19. Many of these communities already struggle to access quality health care, and a large number of tribes are heavily dependent on the industries hit hardest by COVID-19 – gaming, tourism, and hospitality in particular.

“As we wait for final details, released versions of the third COVID-19 stimulus include some significant achievements representing the results of hard work across tribes and organizations that represent Indian Country, and the leadership of Members of Congress who made it a priority to ensure that Native Americans and Alaska Natives aren’t forgotten. In addition to billions in direct funding to tribes or agencies that serve tribal communities, the legislation also specifically makes tribes eligible for several programs that do not necessarily serve these communities. In two major developments, Tribal governments will be able to participate in the Coronavirus Economic Stabilization funds for loans, loan guarantees and other assistance, and will have $8 Billion available to them through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Tribal business concerns also are specifically named as eligible to participate in the Paycheck Loan Program, and thousands of other Native-owned small businesses nationwide will be able to benefit from the many COVID-19 relief provisions designed to help businesses get through this pandemic crisis.”

“While this is a good first step, it’s not the end. Like most Americans, Native Americans and Alaska Natives will likely need additional help and support in the coming months. We look forward to working with our sister organizations and champions in Congress to ensure that Indian Country gets the resources it needs to weather the storm created by COVID-19.”