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The State of Arizona has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. With 21 federally recognized tribes within the state’s borders, Indian Country is not free from the devastating effects the pandemic has wrought.

As part of an effort to better understand the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on Native Communities in Arizona, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s President and Chief Executive Officer Chris James presented testimony to the Arizona Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights on January 12, 2021.

In his testimony, Chris James brought attention to the Native American and Alaska Native-owned businesses across the country that are struggling through this pandemic. In a July survey conducted by the National Center and the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, 68% of respondents reported at least a 20% revenue loss; 41% of businesses were forced to furlough or lay off employees as a result of the pandemic.

While economic harm is difficult to face in and of itself, COVID-19 has continued to impact the public health of Arizona native communities. “According to the Centers for Disease Control, American Indians and Alaska Natives are 5.3 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than white Americans – the largest disparity among racial groups,” said Chris James in his testimony, “Native Americans make up a far higher share of deaths from COVID-19 than their white counterparts; they account for 5% of the state’s population, but 9% of deaths in which the racial identity of the deceased is known.”

To view Chris James’ full comments in front of the Arizona Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, click here.