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

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and a bipartisan group of her Senate colleagues in a letter urging Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to immediately disburse $8 billion in critical relief funds to eligible federally recognized Tribal governments.

The emergency assistance, which was secured 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. However, as of May 1, the Treasury Department has not yet 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,” the senators wrote. “Treasury should immediately disburse the $8 billion to eligible federally recognized Tribal governments.  Tribal leaders emphasize that any further delay will have severe detrimental impacts on their ability to protect public health and spur economic recovery in their communities.”

In addition to Cantwell and Smith, the letter to Secretary Mnuchin was also signed by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Jon Tester (D-MT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeffery A. Merkley (D-OR), Angus S. King (I-ME), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

The full text of the letter is available HERE or below.

May 1, 2020

The Honorable Steven Mnuchin

Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Ave., NW                                            

Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Secretary Mnuchin,

We write regarding the $8 billion in critical relief funds intended for Tribal governments from Title V of the CARES Act and to emphasize the urgent need to disburse these funds immediately.

As you know, Title V of the CARES Act authorized the establishment of the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) within the Department of the Treasury to provide direct, expedited support for state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments.  Tribal governments, like their state, local, and territorial counterparts, are relying on this emergency assistance to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and continue providing essential government services to their communities.

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.

In short, Treasury should immediately disburse the $8 billion to eligible federally recognized Tribal governments.  Tribal leaders emphasize that any further delay will have severe detrimental impacts on their ability to protect public health and spur economic recovery in their communities.

The pressing need for CARES Act resources to combat COVID-19 in Native communities across the country is indisputable.  Given our shared responsibilities under the United States’ trust and treaty obligations, we respectfully request that the Department immediately disburse the $8 billion in CRF so that Tribal governments have access to the funds they were promised.

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