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Over the last three weeks Miriam Jorgensen, NNI’s director of research, and three other scholars affiliated with NNI and its sister program, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, have been engaged in an urgent effort to track the economic impact in Indian Country of the COVID-19 pandemic and to analyze and, ideally, inform both federal and tribal responses to this rapidly evolving situation. The research team has released three policy briefs summarizing their findings so far.
The first – initially released as a letter to Secretary Mnuchin on April 10, 2020 and formally released as a policy brief on May 18, 2020– looks at the pandemic’s devastating economic impact on tribes, where it has sent unemployment rates soaring, upended tribal budgets, and crippled the ability of most tribal governments to meet their people’s needs. It also details ripple effects on adjacent, non-Native economies. The second, also released on May 18, evaluates the response to date by the US Treasury Department, responsible for the allocation of CARES Act COVID-19 Relief Funding for Tribal Governments. The researchers found that the first allocation of those funds, in early May, relied on faulty tribal population data, over-funding some tribes, under-funding others, and virtually ignoring still others. The third policy brief, released on May 25, proposes a more appropriate funding formula for upcoming allocations and a way to correct mistakes already made.
On the Front Lines: Tribal Nations Take on COVID-19 panel featuring: