Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, talks with reporters following a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 19, 2020. Murkowski was among a group of lawmakers who wrote a letter to President Donald Trump asking federal money be allocated quickly and in a way that respects tribal sovereignty. (AP Photo | Susan Walsh)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, talks with reporters following a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 19, 2020. Murkowski was among a group of lawmakers who wrote a letter to President Donald Trump asking federal money be allocated quickly and in a way that respects tribal sovereignty. (AP Photo | Susan Walsh)

US lawmakers urge swift deployment of resources to tribes

A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to the president

Congress recently allocated $8 billion in funding for tribal governments in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act or CARES Act, but just how much of that money will come to Alaska tribes and when remains an open question.

Navigating the distribution of those funds is going to a difficult task, which is why a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, including Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, both Republicans, have written a letter to President Donald Trump asking the money be allocated quickly and in a way that respects tribal sovereignty.

Allocating CARES Act funds will mean working through a number of federal agencies including the Department of the Interior and Department of Health and Human Services, lawmakers wrote.

“It is therefore incumbent upon these agencies to respect the inherent sovereignty of Indian Tribes and show deference to Tribal views, particularly as they relate to the use and distribution of CARES Act resources,” stated the letter signed by 31 lawmakers.

Murkowski’s Communications Director Karina Borger said in an email that in addition to the $8 billion allocated for tribes in the Coronavirus Relief Fund created through the CARES Act, there’s an additional $2 billion in appropriations designated specifically for tribes.

How much of the total $10 billion will reach Alaska Natives was, “yet to be determined,” Borger said. However, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Coronavirus Relief Fund money must be distributed by April 26. The Treasury Department would be conducting consultations with tribes before then, Borger said.

Part of the additional funding for tribes comes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development who last week announced more than $46 million will be going to tribes in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. That money could be used for any housing-related costs tribal governments might be facing, according to Leland Jones, public affairs officer for HUD.

“Communities are having to stretch their existing resources,” Jones said. “(The HUD funding) is just additional resources to expand what they’re already doing and if they see the need to expand those operations.”

In Juneau, Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska will receive $1.6 million while the Douglas Indian Association will receive over $95,000.

In their letter, lawmakers urged Trump to respect tribal sovereignty and engage on a government-to-government basis. The letter requests the resources be distributed to tribal governments with respect to, “the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities; respect for Tribal sovereignty; and the principles of meaningful government-to-government consultation.”

The press release from Murkowski’s office acknowledged past difficulties tribes had in accessing federal funds during health crisis.

“Given these developments and past issues accessing federal resources for the Zika, Ebola, H1N1 and SARS outbreaks, Tribes and urban Indian health organizations are concerned that federal COVID-19 response efforts and resources will not reach them,” the release said.

Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Douglas Indian Association and Alaska Federation of Natives did not respond to requests for comment.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of July 20

Here’s what to expect this week.

A car on Gastineau Avenue is partially buried by a mudslide that occurred during record rainfall on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Photo by Simba Blackman)
New July rainfall record set for Juneau with a week to go; Suicide Basin nears 2023 fill level

No more heavy storms expected this month, according to forecaster.

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. Board of Trustees votes for a new chair and vice chair during a meeting in Fairbanks on Wednesday. (Screenshot from APFC livestream)
Ellie Rubenstein resigns from Permanent Fund board, Ethan Schutt displaced as chair in wake of email allegations

Trustees elect new chair, vice chair Wednesday morning; Rubenstein announces resignation hours later

Police and other emergency officials treat Steven Kissack after he was shot on Front Street on Monday, July 15, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Names of officers involved in death of Steven Kissack released, along with more details of standoff

JPD states Kissack threatened to kill officers; one officer who fired gun cleared in 2016 shooting.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, speaks on Jan. 4, 2024, at a town hall meeting on the possible Albertsons-Kroger grocery merger. The meeting was held at the Teamsters Local 959 headquarters in Anchorage. Peltola said on Tuesday she has not decided whether to support her party’s likely candidate, Vice President Kamala Harris. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Rep. Mary Peltola withholds support for Kamala Harris, is ‘keeping an open mind’

Congresswoman says she’s considering Harris presidency’s affect on Alaska as an oil-dependent state.

People arrive for a service at Resurrection Lutheran Church on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Lawsuit: Resurrection Lutheran Church leaders have been ousted, clarity in ‘ministerial work’ needed

Pastor Karen Perkins, two others targeted in long-brewing feud at church known for helping homeless.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, July 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, July 20, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, July 19, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read