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Native American Legislative Update

March 2020

By Kerri Colfer, March 31, 2020


Welcome to FCNL's Native American Legislative Update! The NALU is a monthly newsletter about FCNL's Native American policy advocacy and ways for you to engage your members of Congress. FCNL's Congressional Advocate for Native American policy is Kerri Colfer (Tlingit).

Savanna’s Act and Not Invisible Act Pass the Senate and Advance in the House

Savanna’s Act (H.R. 2733/S. 227) and the Not Invisible Act of 2019 (H.R. 2438/S. 982) were passed in the Senate on March 11 by unanimous consent. The bills also passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on the same day, and currently await full House approval. Savanna’s Act would improve recording and reporting practices for law enforcement in cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and help to develop guidelines for responses to such cases. The Not Invisible Act would create an advisory commission to recommend ways to reduce violence against Native people.

FCNL Endorses Bill to Give Tribes Access to Emergency Medical Supplies

Earlier this month, FCNL endorsed the Tribal Medical Supplies Stockpile Access Act (S. 3514). The bill would give the Indian Health Service (IHS) and Indian health organizations direct access to the Strategic National Stockpile of medical supplies and drugs set aside for public health emergencies. States currently have guaranteed access to the stockpile, but IHS, tribes, and urban Indian health organizations do not. Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Tom Udall (NM) introduced the bill on March 17.

On March 19, I spoke on the [Native America Calling](nativeamericacalling.com/about/?utm_campaign=lam&utm_medium=email&utm_source=ak) radio program about the federal response to Indian Country’s needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the importance of the Tribal Medical Supplies Stockpile Access Act. Listen to the recording here.

Impact of the Coronavirus on Tribes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who are most at risk of getting sick from the coronavirus are older adults and people with serious medical conditions. Because Native Americans have the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes in the country and continue to die of chronic lower respiratory and heart diseases at higher rates than other Americans, many fall into the higher risk category for COVID-19. That’s why it is crucial for tribes to have access to emergency funding and medical supplies.

Tribes, IHS, and Indian health organizations received a $40 million set-aside in the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074) and $64 million in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), passed on March 6 and 18, respectively. But most tribes have yet to receive any of the emergency funding because there is currently no mechanism for the funds to be distributed from the CDC to IHS.

IHS also received an additional $1 billion to address critical response needs in Indian Country through the CARES Act (H.R. 748), which passed into law on March 27.

In an attempt to improve information flow and ensure access to resources, 27 senators wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence urging him to include an IHS representative on the administration’s COVID-19 task force. We thank the senators for their leadership in making sure the needs of Indian Country are met during this crisis.

Bill Tracker

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019:

Passed in the House (H.R. 1585), two versions introduced in the Senate (S. 2920 and S. 2843).

Savanna’s Act (H.R. 2733/S. 227) and Not Invisible Act (H.R. 2438/S. 982):

Passed in the Senate.

What We're Reading and Writing

Book Recommendation:

  • "The Round House" by Louise Erdrich.

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Kerri Colfer

  • Congressional Advocate, Native American Advocacy Program

Kerri manages the Native American Advocacy Program, lobbying on legislation that affects Native communities.