Donald Trump’s Covid-19 Response has Failed Native Americans
June 30, 2020
The Trump administration and its failed response to the Covid-19 pandemic has left Native Americans behind. As a result of a delayed and inadequate response by this administration, existing health and economic disparities have been worsened, and these communities have paid a heavy price. And Tribes face a bleak economic future if significant action is not taken to alleviate the unique hurdles that face Indian country.
“Too often under this president, Native Americans have been left out and left behind,” said DNC Native American Caucus Chair Rion Ramirez. “The Native American population is particularly vulnerable to the challenges presented by this pandemic and requires a concerted response effort, a standard this administration has not come even close to meeting. My community deserves better from our leaders – our lives quite literally depend on it.”
Native American-specific data from PolicyLink states, “Native Americans are more likely than other US-born workers to be negatively impacted” by the economic downturn.
The jobs with a higher risk of exposure to coronavirus – including gaming and casinos – will likely be among the last to come back in these communities, putting Native American workers at heightened risk of long-term unemployment.
Essential jobs have been less impacted by pandemic, but Native American workers are more concentrated than their white counterparts in essential jobs where opportunities are declining.
100% of Indian Country was closed down due to coronavirus, resulting in deep economic distress.
Tribes heavily depend on tourism for their economy but because of the virus every single tribe was closed and the majority are still closed with no clear timeline of reopening.
Tribes have slowly started opening back up in certain states, but the majority of Tribes have had to furlough employees and cut their government budgets.
Much of the CARES Act relief funding has still not reached tribes in need due to bad data and slow implementation.
The Delaware Tribe of Indians (Eastern), for example, has more than 11,000 enrolled tribal citizens, which could have netted them $24 million in CARES Act funding. Instead, because of the way the Treasury allocated money based on an Indian Housing Block Grant dataset derived from inaccurate Census numbers, the tribe received just $100,000, or a little more than $9 per person.
Congress in the massive bill passed in March approved $8 billion to be allocated to tribal nations, but because of apparent confusion, tribes didn’t begin seeing their money until May.
The White House tried to use coronavirus relief as leverage against tribes, and threatened to withhold funds if tribes ignored their directives.