Support for Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Tribal Enterprises

How can Tribes apply for the Coronavirus Relief fund? Are there limitations?

The Treasury Secretary will consult with the Interior Secretary and Tribes to develop the specific method for applying for the $8 billion reserved for Indian Tribes and Tribal enterprises in the Coronavirus Relief Fund. The CARES Act specifies that the Secretary can only provide funding to cover additional expenditures incurred by Tribes or Tribal enterprises in 2020 compared to expenses incurred in 2019. Tribes should be able to work with the Secretaries of Treasury and the Interior to help determine how this calculation is made. 


How will the $2+ billion emergency supplemental funding for federal Indian programs be distributed? Will it be competitive? 

Distribution will be conducted on a case-by-case basis for each federal Department. Some Departments may use existing funding streams, but Congress’s intent is that all Departments consult with Tribes on how to distribute these emergency supplemental funds. Congress will also conduct strong oversight to ensure the distribution process for CARES Act funds will be more efficient than Tribes and urban Indian health centers reportedly experienced under previous COVID-19 packages.


My Tribal government closed its businesses due to the virus. What relief is available to recoup employee salaries and other expenses?

Tribal business concerns are eligible for increased government loan guarantees under the Small Business Act Paycheck Protection Program, which will provide 100% federal loan guarantees up to $10 million to cover costs like employee salaries, paid sick leave/medical leave, mortgages/rents, and health insurance premiums.


Instead of paying traditional unemployment insurance premiums, my Tribe/Tribal business opts to pay a dollar-for-dollar reimbursement to State unemployment programs for any unemployment costs incurred by former Tribal employees. Will my Tribe/Tribal business be eligible for the CARES Act unemployment insurance reimbursements?

Yes. The CARES Act reduces the amount Indian Tribes and their Tribally-owned business entities are required to reimburse states for benefits paid to their workers who claim unemployment insurance by 50 percent through December 31, 2020. Tribes and Tribal businesses that incur additional unemployment insurance costs in 2020 are also eligible to make a claim for reimbursement through the Tribal Coronavirus Relief Fund. 


Are all Bureau of Indian Education schools, including Tribally operated 638 contract and 297 grant schools, eligible to receive waivers for federal education law requirements that will be difficult/impossible to comply with due to COVID-19 related school closures (e.g., annual testing and reporting requirements)? 

The CARES Act gives the Department of Education the authority to grant BIE schools and Indian Tribes waivers of certain federal education laws under Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), and the Higher Education Act (HEA). To ensure all students’ rights are protected Congress authorized these waivers to cover a range of topics (e.g., annual testing, reporting, and annual funding use limitations) but prohibited universal exemptions for all federal education laws. Tribes are encouraged to check Department of Education websites and communications over the coming days for specific lists of federal statutory provisions that are eligible for waivers. The Secretary of Education will create a streamlined waiver-applications process for this academic year only. 


The IHS health clinics serving my Tribe are dangerously low on personal protective equipment and other medical supplies. Does the CARES Act provide any resources to help us make sure our health workers have the supplies they need?

Yes. The CARES Act will provide Indian Tribes and the IHS with $15 million in emergency supplemental funding to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies. Additionally, the CARES Act provides the IHS with over $1 billion in flexible emergency supplemental funding that can be used for procurement of PPE and other medical supplies, including health IT for public health data surveillance. IHS will work with Tribes and urban Indian health centers over the coming days to determine how these funds will be distributed.


Many of my Tribal Members enrolled in school are being asked to complete classwork online, but internet access is very limited on my reservation, and many families can’t afford the computer equipment needed for online distance learning. Are there resources to help address this learning gap for Native students?

The CARES Act includes $25 million for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program, administered by the Rural Utility Service. Funding goes toward equipment (e.g., video conferencing equipment, computers) that operates via telecommunications to rural users of telemedicine and distance learning. Broadband facilities (if owned by the applicant) are also eligible. Federally recognized tribes are eligible to apply for DLT grants. Approved purposes can be found here

The CARES Act also includes $100 million for the ReConnect program which offers loans and grants to build infrastructure and install equipment that provides high-speed internet service in rural America. The ReConnect program offers three products: 100% Loans, 50% Loan-50% Grant combinations, and 100% Grants. To be eligible, at least 90% of the households to be served by a project must be in a rural area without sufficient access to fixed broadband at a minimum speed of 10 Mbps/1 Mbps. Additional information about the ReConnect program can be found here

Finally, the CARES Act will provide $69 million to BIE at the Department of Interior to address needs including student IT at Tribal K-12 and higher education schools. Congress also provided $30.75 billion to establish an Education Stabilization Fund that BIE-funded schools and Tribal Colleges and Universities will qualify for.  Tribes should reach out to the Department of Education for guidance on how and when these funds will be distributed.


Are there any additional health resources for Indian Tribes and urban Indian health clinics outside of the IHS in the CARES Act?

Yes. In addition to the more than $1 billion in emergency supplemental funding for IHS in the CARES Act, Indian Tribes will receive health-specific resources from other agencies. Specifically, Indian health entities will receive: 

  • $15 million for telehealth/rural health COVID-19 emergency supplemental funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration; 
  • $15 million in emergency supplemental funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration;
  • $15 million in emergency supplemental funding reserved for Indian health entities under the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund; and
  • $120 million in emergency supplemental funding reserved for Indian health entities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


My Tribe needs to set up COVID-19 response child care coverage to help the families of health care workers, emergency personnel, and other “front line” workers. Will the CARES Act help with this?

Yes. Tribes can opt to receive reimbursement for any of these expenses through the $8 billion Tribal Coronavirus Relief Fund operated by the Department of Treasury.  Tribes that operate child care centers through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Child Care Development Block Grant Program will receive a portion of the emergency supplemental funding appropriated by Congress for this program.