UPDATED 8:32 AM PT — Monday, May 4, 2020
Native American health care systems are reaching a breaking point as hospitals and clinics continue to fill with coronavirus patients. More than $8 billion was set aside in the CARES Act for native communities, however, tribes have yet to see any funding.
On Thursday, tribes filed a lawsuit over the delay stating the U.S. Treasury Department missed its April 26th deadline to distribute funds. The move is the second lawsuit tribes have filed over the government’s handling of stimulus money.
On Monday, a federal judge ruled in favor of more than a dozen native tribes contesting the Treasury Department’s move to give native for-profit entities part of the coronavirus funding. The judge ruled that ANC’s did not meet the definition of a tribal government as set out in the act.
Despite the victory, the funding has now become critical for many tribes struggling to combat the COVID-19 virus.
“Sometimes it goes through the federal agencies before it gets to the tribe or it goes through the state before it gets to the tribe,” explained Johnathan Nez, President of Navajo Nation. “We’re using that same process and we have to wait, and we have to submit for these funding’s, but the need is now.”
The Indian Health Service has worked to create extra sites to handle coronavirus patients and expand testing capabilities. Additionally, local organizations have donated food and supplies to different tribes across the country.
In the meantime, tribes hope the lawsuit against the Treasury Department will get money flowing faster.