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Emergency Funding For Tribes During Crisis

Throughout history, the needs of Native people have been often ignored, but without proper funding, Native communities could quickly become collateral damage in the wake of COVID-19.

According to First Nations, Native people are severely at risk due to the population already being compromised by high rates of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and other chronic illnesses. Additionally, Native American homes are overcrowded with generations of family members living together. On top of that, only 13% of homes do not have access to clean drinking water. These factors together make it hard to safely social distance and highlight the crucial need for monetary support for Native Americans.

What’s Being Done to Help

To combat tribal communities from experiencing disaster from the coronavirus pandemic, numerous resources have become available.


To assist North Dakota tribes with coronavirus relief efforts, the U.S. Department of the Treasury is allocating 60 percent of the $8 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This equals out to approximately $109 million in funds for North Dakota tribes.

Using the HUD’s Indian Housing Block Grant Formula, the Treasury is allocating the following to these specific tribes:

  • Spirit Lake Nation: $12 million

  • Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: $21 million

  • MHA Nation (Three Affiliated Tribes): $17 million

  • Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate: $15 million

  • Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians: $44 million

The $3.2 billion that still remains in the CARES act will be distributed to employees of tribes that were employed prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and any accumulated expenses since March 2020.

Federal Aid Programs for the State of North Dakota

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) states that Tribal governments can seek assistance from federal disaster aid programs in North Dakota.

According to FEMA, they are providing assistance through the following ways:

  • Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for emergency protective measures taken to save lives and protect property and public health. Emergency protective measures assistance is available to state, tribal and local governments on a cost-sharing basis

  • Payment of not less than 75 percent of the eligible costs for repairing or replacing damaged public facilities, such as roads, bridges, utilities, buildings, schools, recreational areas, and similar publicly owned property, as well as certain private non-profit organizations engaged in community service activities.

  • Payment of not more than 75 percent of the approved costs for hazard mitigation projects undertaken by state, tribes and local governments to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters.

Other Emergency Funding

Many organizations have created emergency funding for COVID-19 as well, including the First Nations Development Institute. They are accepting donations in order to distribute funds to the Native nonprofit organizations and tribal programs that truly need it. As of July 13th, $1,441,500 in emergency funds have been secured and donated to 102 select Native nations and organizations to “support human services, response, and relief efforts.”

Another resource is from The Native Community Development Inc., also known as NATIVE Inc., which has launched the Urban Indian COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for North Dakota tribes. Native Americans in the Bismarck, Fargo and Grand Forks areas can apply for assistance with housing and temporary shelter due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For a complete list of organizations helping tribal communities with funding, health and safety, and response during COVID-19, you can visit the Native Governance Center’s website here.

Need Assitance With Tribal Law Matters?

If your community has been impacted by COVID-19 and needs legal assistance, Circling Eagle Law is here to help. We are skilled negotiators and litigators, and our Fargo tribal lawyers have the necessary resources and knowledge to effectively resolve disputes and reach solutions. Our team regularly handles financing issues, tribal economic development, and intergovernmental negotiations.

Contact our Fargo tribal lawyers today at (701) 401-7404 to discuss your legal needs.


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