COVID-19: Tribal Resources Made Available Through the CARES Act

April 18, 2020 Judith M. Dworkin Candace D. French COVID-19

Tribes are included in the historic $2 trillion stimulus package.

A component of the United States’ health and economic uncertainty due to the COVID -19 pandemic is the impact in Indian Country. Actions taken by Indian Nations and tribal communities to combat the novel virus include the shutdown of tribal businesses and the further straining of healthcare and social services resources.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, tribal governments, tribal entities, and agencies serving Indian Country can take part in the historic $2 trillion stimulus package signed by the President on March 27, 2020.

Below is a breakdown of the relief available to Indian Country:

$8 billion for Tribal governments out of the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for states and local governments

The Act sets up a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for State, Tribal, and Local governments and reserves $8 billion for Tribal governments and Tribally-owned entities and states, which the Department of Treasury will distribute after consultation with the Tribes and the Department of the Interior.

In addition to the $8 billion reserve, the Act also provides the following:

Tribal Governments

$453 million through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), in order to provide:

  • Aid to tribal governments;
  • Welfare assistance and social service programs;
  • Public safety and emergency response capabilities;
  • BIA capacity for teleworking and increased staffing to assist tribes.


$70 million to $96 million for Indian Child Care Development Block Grants to ensure continued payments to child care providers during center closures and to provide emergency child care for health care workers, emergency responders, and other COVID-19 workers.

$69 million to the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) for response needs at BIE-funded schools. BIE-funded programs will receive a 0.5% ($153.75 million) set-aside for staffing, transportation, teleworking, and cleaning activities and assistance for tribal colleges and universities.

Tribal Health

The $1.032 billion to the Indian Health Service (IHS) in critically needed resources to support tribal healthcare systems, including tribally operated and urban Indian health care facilities, during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to provide medical services, equipment, supplies and public health education; purchased/referred care; and resources for telehealth services, electronic health records improvement, and disease surveillance by tribal epidemiology centers.

  • $125 million in grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for tribal prevention, preparation, and response to the coronavirus.
  • $15 million to tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, and tribal health or behavioral health providers to respond to the coronavirus.
  • $15 million under the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for tribal COVID-19 response.
  • $25 million to Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program for initial equipment (e.g., video conferencing equipment, computers) that operate via telecommunications to rural end-users of distance learning and telemedicine. Tribes are eligible for the DLT grants.
  • Extension of the Special Diabetes Program for American Indians mandatory authorization at FY2020 levels ($150 million per year) through November 2020.

Tribal Food Assistance and Nutrition

$100 million for Food Distribution Programs in Indian Country to distribute USDA commodity foods.

$20 million for the delivery of nutrition services to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiian elders through the Older Americans Act Tribal Nutrition program.

Tribal Housing

$200 million for the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act (NAHADSA) Block Grant program with a formula designed to assist Tribally Designated Housing Entities most in need of funding related to COVID-19 response.

$100 million is included for Indian Community Development Block Grants to respond to COVID-19 in tribal communities.

Unemployment Relief for Tribes

Provides payment to Indian tribes for half of the costs they incur through December 31, 2020 to pay unemployment benefits.

Tribal Businesses Eligible for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loans

For “a tribal small business concern,” as described in section 31(b)(2)(C) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 657a(b)(2)(C)), with not more than 500 employees, the opportunity to apply for a PPP loan of up to $10 million to cover payroll support (salaries), paid sick or medical leave, insurance premiums, and certain operating costs such as mortgage, rent, and utility payments.

Sacks Tierney has qualified Indian Law attorneys here to answer your questions about these provisions and to help guide your tribal government, entities, and businesses if you wish to apply for and obtain any of the assistance available through the CARES Act.