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How do Indigenous tribes fair in the coronavirus bailout?
Native American sovereign nations have been sidelined in previous economic bailouts and health emergencies. So how do they fare in the $2tn emergency Covid-19 rescue package?
It’s a good start, according to Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
The deal will establish an $8bn ring-fenced tribal government relief fund which should provide tribes with flexible ‘one stop’ direct access to Covid-19 dollars for economic recovery and continuation of essential government services – depending on what each tribe needs.
The direct part is crucial as tribes do not have guaranteed direct access to many state and federal resources during emergencies including the national stockpile of medicines and medical equipment.
The rescue package also contains over $2bn in emergency supplemental funding for health, education and housing, including:
- $1.032 billion for the chronically underfunded Indian Health Service.
- $453 million for essential Tribal government programs including the purchase of protective equipment for emergency personnel – this money will be funneled through the Bureau of Indian Affairs
In a statement, Udall said: “No doubt these are key victories. But the fight to make sure Indian Country isn’t left behind in the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic must continue.
Congress must do more to respond to the unique Covid-19 related public health and economic crises in Indian Country and to uphold our trust and treaty responsibilities to all American Indians and Alaska Natives.”
There are 574 federally recognised tribal nations located across 35 states within the geographic boundaries of the US, including 229 in Alaska.
In 2010, 5.2million people or 1.7% of the total population identified as American Indian or Alaska native, and importantly in election year, 3.1million are of voting age.
At his briefing on the G7 video conference this morning, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo also stressed that the US was helping Italy and was ready to do more.
There has been substantial coverage of Chinese and Russian deliveries of medical supplies to Italy, and speculation that the US is losing soft power.
“I made it clear to our G7 partners, especially to our friends in Italy and the rest of Europe, that the United States remains committed to assisting them in all ways possible,” Pompeo said.
“This past Saturday, the United States Air Force sent a C130 filled with medical supplies to Italy. The US military is also finalizing plans to make some of its excess medical equipment deployed there available to our Italian friends.”
Defense One has reported military flights bringing nasal swabs from northern Italy to Memphis on March 16. Pompeo is suggesting it has been two-way traffic.
The secretary of state also pointed to US charities that are helping, citing the Samaritan’s Purse organisation which he said had set up a 68 field hospital in Cremona, a badly hit city in northern Italy.
“This is the American people’s famous generosity, at its finest,” he said.
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has been giving a briefing on the virtual G7 foreign ministers meeting that began by videoconference at 7am (ET). He said the main focus was the coronavirus, which Pompeo made a point of calling the “Wuhan virus”.
According to a report in Der Spiegel, the G7 ministers have not so far been able to agree on a joint statement because of Pompeo’s insistence that it should refer to the disease as the “Wuhan virus”, a suggestion that was rejected by other members of the group of prosperous democracies.
Asked about the disagreement this morning, Pompeo did not answer directly, but did not deny it.
“I always think about these meetings, the right answer is to make sure we have the same message coming out of it,” he said. “I’m confident that when you hear the other six foreign ministers speak, they will have a common understanding of what we talked about today, and we will talk about the things that we have agreement on.”
Donald Trump has called the disease the “China virus”. Although the president has not used the phrase in his last couple of White House briefings, the administration is clearly still seeking to emphasise Chinese culpability.
“The Chinese Communist Party poses a substantial threat to our health and way of life, as the Wuhan virus outbreak clearly has demonstrated,” Pompeo said this morning.
Summary of the day so far
Olympic president takes cue from Trump in coronavirus delay
The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, had been taking plenty of criticism for his delay in postponing the Tokyo 2020 games, which were due to start on 24 July. Bach is citing an interest figure, not noted for his sports or medical expertise in his defence: US president Donald Trump
“In the last couple of weeks the measures of many governments, they were limited until middle of April, some beginning of May,” Bach said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “You have maybe seen the latest declarations there in the United States from President Trump about the prospect of, middle of April, there being able to lift many restrictions.”
Trump may not be the best witness for Bach to call in his defence.
The US president said on 12 March he thought that the Olympics should be delayed. The IOC is now looking for dates in 2021 when the Games can take place.
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