COVID-19 Legislative Update: Senate Reaches Agreement on COVID III Relief Bill >>

March 25th, 2020

Senate Reaches Agreement on COVID III Relief Bill

Will Provide $2T in Economic Relief

Late last night, Senate Republicans, Democrats, and the White House reached a deal on the third piece of legislation aimed at blunting the economic impact of COVID-19.

The massive legislation came together around 1:00 AM after 5-days of marathon negotiations between Senators and the White House. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed that the Senate would pass the bill later today, while House leaders are eyeing an expedited process to get the massive emergency package to President Trump’s desk for signature before the end of the week.

In big news for Indian country, the Senate bill creates a dedicated $8 billion set aside for Tribes in the “Temporary Fiscal Relief for States and Localities” fund. That is separate from the $500 billion “Economic Stabilization Fund” of guaranteed loans, which tribes will also be able to access. Other provisions to strengthen response capacity and support for tribal communities include:

  • $1.03 billion to the Indian Health Service to support the tribal health care system and its response efforts;
  • $100 million more for the USDA Food Distribution Program for Indian Reservations;
  • $453 million to assist tribes through the Bureau of Indian Affairs;
  • $69 million to help tribal schools, colleges, and universities through for the Bureau of Indian Education; and
  • $300 million more to the HUD Indian Housing Block Grant program.

The package also includes provisions that allow workers to get unemployment insurance quickly and would allow furloughed workers to stay on as employees for the duration of the crisis so that they can quickly resume work when business operations resume. Direct payments will also go out to individuals and families to help address basic needs during the crisis.

A centerpiece of the package is a $150 billion Marshall Plan for the nation’s health care system to ensure hospitals and health care workers can provide needed treatment and turn the tide against the pandemic. Additional health care investments include:

  • Funding for personal and protective equipment for health care workers;
  • Funding for testing supplies, increased workforce and training, new building construction to house patients;
  • An increase of the Strategic National Stockpile;
  • Funding for medical research into COVID-19; and
  • Medicare payment increases to all hospitals and providers to ensure that they receive the funding they need during this crisis.

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