The $1.9 trillion stimulus package signed into law last week by President Biden contains more than $31 billion for tribal governments. The New York Times reported that tribal nations and Indigenous people were among the hardest hit by the pandemic.
The funds will go to the Indian Health Service and other Native American health systems, including Native Hawaiians. Along with addressing healthcare shortcomings, the funds will be used to expand broadband access.
Last March, $8 million of the $2.2 trillion stimulus law was also allocated to tribal governments by Congress. However, some of the money is frozen in a legal battle over eligibility and the definition of a “tribal government,” reported the Times.
“It took a lot of time just to sort of educate people about Indian Country and the structural — just the historic — lack of basics,” said Senator Martin Heinrich, Democrat of New Mexico. “There is a number of things converging, but I do think that the conversation around race also opened the door for people to realize, wait a minute, we never got around to getting running water and electricity and all these things, broadband, to Indian Country — like they’re not starting at the same place.”