On Friday, February 26, 2021, the U.S. House of Representative advanced its version of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill, the “American Rescue Plan”, by a party line 219-212 vote.
The House-passed bill includes significant resources to help Indian Country address the health and economic crises created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest is $20 billion to tribal governments through the renamed Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Funds (formerly the CARES Act - Coronavirus Relief Fund). Indian Tribes are defined as the governing body of a tribe included on the annually published pursuant to the Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act. Tribes may use Recovery Funds to “replace revenue that was lost, delayed, or decreased” due to the pandemic. In addition, there is no deadline to spend down the funding. In addition, the bill provides over $6B for the Indian Health Service and other health care activities. The bill also includes additional funding for Indian education, housing, food distribution, childcare, and more. Attached is a summary of provisions directed to Indian Country in the House bill.
The bill now goes to the Senate where changes are expected due to procedural rules relating to budget reconciliation. The Senate Parliamentarian has already flagged that the provision to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 / hour to $15 an hour runs afoul of reconciliation rules. Senate Republicans will likely offer a number of other amendments, most of which will be opposed by the Democratic majority. If the package makes it through the Senate, the revised bill would have to return to the House for final passage. Congressional Democrats are working to complete debate on the final bill by Sunday, March 14th when unemployment benefits begin to expire.
The National Indian Gaming Association will continue to monitor the progress of the American Rescue Plan and report any updates to its Member Tribes. Please contact Danielle Her Many Horses at email@example.com with any questions or concerns with this alert.