Bill introduced to lower cost-sharing agreement with FEMA

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico’s congressional members are pushing a bill, the Tribal COVID-19 Disaster Assistance Cost Share Relief Act, aimed at lowering the cost for Native American governments fighting COVID-19.

Under FEMA’s public assistance program, tribal governments are responsible for covering 25% of costs, with the federal government pitching in the remaining 75%. The proposal, led by Senator Martin Heinrich, would shift the burden away from tribes and have the feds cover the entire cost.

“The coronavirus pandemic is having a severe and disproportionate impact on Indian Country. Tribal nations are taking on enormous and unprecedented costs to protect the health and safety of their communities,” said Heinrich in a press release. “This bill would waive FEMA’s cost-share requirement for emergency protective measures that is standing in the way of Tribal governments receiving the full support of the federal government they need to respond to this crisis. I will keep doing everything in my power to secure the funding and resources Tribal nations need to save lives during the immediate public health response and to support long-term economic recovery.”

Also co-sponsoring the Senate bill is U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), and Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.). The Tribal COVID-19 Disaster Assistance Cost Share Relief Act is supported by the National Congress of American Indians, the Navajo Nation, and the All Pueblo Council of Governors. 

Comments from the New Mexico Delegation, President of the Navajo Nation and Governor of Santa Clara Pueblo:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our communities in unimaginable ways, and a robust national response to this crisis requires much more support for local, state, and Tribal governments. In New Mexico and across the nation, Tribal governments are experiencing the brunt of this public health crisis and need urgent help. Alongside the New Mexico delegation, I’m proud to lead the effort in the House to introduce legislation that would waive FEMA’s cost-share requirement and alleviate the financial burden placed on Tribal governments,” said U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján in a press release. “The current crisis before us requires urgent action, and I will continue fighting for the resources Tribal governments need to protect public health.” 

“During this pandemic, there should not be burdensome barriers to relief, but FEMA’s cost-sharing requirements are blocking Tribes from providing Native communities with economic support and health care resources, on top of the pre-existing severe underfunding in Indian Country caused by the federal government’s failure to live up to trust responsibility. That’s why the delegation and I introduced this bill to remove roadblocks, so Tribal communities have what they need to stop the spread of this virus,” said U.S. Representative Debra Haaland, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus in a press release.

“Our tribes and Pueblos have been, and continue to be, disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. While the number of cases continues to climb each day, tribal governments, healthcare providers, and businesses are fighting the virus’ spread with limited resources and decreased revenue. By only covering 75% of the disaster assistance costs, the federal relief effort has fallen short of providing the tribal governments the support they need,” said U.S Representative Xochitl Torres Small in a press release. “During this unprecedented public health crisis, our tribes and Pueblos need full federal resources to save lives and protect public health and safety. This bipartisan bill takes necessary action to provide that full support, which is critical to our immediate response efforts to safely reopen and rebuild our economy.”

“Tribal governments are facing enormous challenges in their efforts to address the impacts of COVID-19, and adequately responding to the pandemic is incredibly resource-intensive,” said Kevin J. Allis, Chief Executive Officer of the National Congress of American Indians in a press release. “Eliminating FEMA cost-sharing for tribal governments will help ensure tribal access to FEMA emergency relief funds, which will ultimately increase safety and save lives in tribal communities. NCAI is grateful for the introduction of this legislation and urges its immediate consideration and passage.” 

“The Navajo Nation is devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. On a per-capita basis, the Navajo Nation has the third-highest infection rate in the country,” said Jonathan Nez, President of the Navajo Nation in a press release. “The Federal Government should be doing more to support Indian Tribes through this pandemic because of their failed trust and treaty obligations. We appreciate Sen. Heinrich for introducing this measure so that precious and limited tribal resources are spent wisely.” 

“We have worked closely with FEMA. They are a powerful partner for Indian country. However, because of the cost-share requirement, it is not always possible for Tribal Nations to take full advantage of that partnership just at a time when they need it most. For this reason, I am very thankful to Senator Heinrich for introducing legislation that waives the cost-share requirement, strengthening our ability to fight the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a national effort. Senator Heinrich understands that we are all in this together. We thank Senator Heinrich for his leadership on the federal side in ensuring that tribal governments have the needed resources to protect public health for Native and non-Native communities alike,” said Michael Chavarria, Governor of Santa Clara Pueblo and Chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors in a press release.


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