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Native American communities During COVID-19
As of July 20, 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports more than 190 million confirmed COVID-19 cases with almost 4 million deaths and the administering of almost 3.5 million vaccine doses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in December of 2020 that Native American communities are 3.5 times more likely to fall sick with the novel coronavirus and 1.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than non-Hispanic white people.

Harvard field research teacher Eric Henson calls what the tribes are having as “the worst of both worlds at the same time.” Businesses entirely stopped their services at the start of this health crisis. These communities had their tax base reduced entirely to zero. All tribal businesses closed. Like other minority groups, Native American communities often work jobs that do not provide proper medical insurance. Many of these jobs are ‘essential work,’ meaning these individuals nevertheless face an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. However, efforts are providing aid to Native American communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Vaccine for Minorities

Native American communities during COVID-19 are accepting safety measures to prevent the novel coronavirus. Early discussions considered giving priority to minorities with the first vaccine dose, at odds with the Trump Administration. While little data exists regarding vaccination rates amongst ethnicities during the vaccine rollout under President Biden, several prominent Native Americans were prioritizing vaccines in their communities. As a result of the American Indian communities’ core values of putting the community first before the individual, their stance to accept the first wave of vaccines is for the health of their whole tribe as well. One individual’s health protected through the vaccine keeps other non-infected community members in a safer environment.

A recent survey that the Urban Indian Health Institute conducted showed that 75% of Native Americans are willing to receive vaccinations. Surveys show 75% of American Indians are concerned with side effects from novel coronavirus protection measures. However, two out of three participants are confident they are safe.

Funding For Native Americans During a Global Pandemic

The CDC has given $219.5 million to aid tribal communities during this health crisis. Its approach has ensured that these communities have access to necessary materials to prevent, provide for and respond to outbreaks. The U.S. Congress directs $165 million of the funding from the CDC through two acts. The acts are H.R 6074, a bill providing $8.3 billion in emergency funding for COVID-19, and the CARES Act, a bill protecting the healthcare system, employed workers and the economy against the health pandemic.

The Administration for Native Americans has a branch referred to as the Administration of Children and Families (ACF). The branch exists within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ACF has supported Native American communities during COVID-19. Its website provides resources to grant programs providing Native tribes, families and individuals access to funding for the pandemic. Resources include administrative relief, human services activities and natural disaster alleviation for Native Americans during COVID-19.

A Return to Normalcy

The effects of COVID-19 are detrimental to many communities, especially those already in the minority before the pandemic. As Native Americans are some of the first to receive vaccines, the families are back on their way to normalcy.

Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

CARES Act
On March 27, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law, which authorized more than $2 trillion to combat COVID-19 and its various economic and health effects. Of that amount, over $1 billion was allotted to the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Here are some of the specifics:

  • The Department of State received $678 million. The State Department has been working to prevent the global spread of COVID-19, to stabilize the economies and to ensure the security of other countries. The State Department has also funded and worked closely with numerous international NGOs, including UNICEF and the World Food Program, to help those across the world in need of supplies and medical assistance.

  • Of that $678 million, $350 million was allotted specifically for migration and refugee assistance. Under the CARES Act, the State Department is tasked with working closely with NGOs like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross to prepare and respond to any outbreaks of COVID-19 among refugee populations.

  • USAID, specifically its International Disaster Assistance (IDA) account, received $258 million. Independent of the federal government, USAID is one of the largest aid agencies in the world. Here is how USAID and its IDA works to help the world’s poor.

How USAID Helps the World’s Poor

The IDA works to provide humanitarian assistance to people in other nations affected by natural disasters and emergencies. It provides basic necessities and resources like food, water, shelter and health care. The IDA also ensures that refugees and people fleeing conflict are able to receive humanitarian aid wherever they are.

More generally, USAID works to promote development in other countries across the globe. This development could be a reduction in poverty through humanitarian assistance. It could also come in the form of political change to ensure stability and economic prosperity, as USAID works to promote democracy.

The $258 million it received through the CARES Act will go directly towards providing other nations with medical and essential aid. The funding will benefit frontline workers in other countries and provide them with the medical tools and resources necessary to treat patients. Funding will also go towards providing those in need with food, shelter, water and other necessary supplies.

The world’s poor have been severely affected by COVID-19 and its economic and social implications. Millions have lost their jobs, and millions more have lost their homes due to their inability to pay rent, such as migrant workers living in India. USAID will provide direct relief to the poor and help them recover physically and financially.

How Foreign Aid Helps the U.S.

Providing foreign aid to countries around the world benefits the U.S. in numerous ways. First, foreign aid ensures national security. USAID works with other governments to create political, social and economic stability by promoting a more democratic political system and lifting people out of poverty. Stability in other nations is critical to U.S. national security.

Foreign aid can also strengthen the market for American-made goods. When people are lifted out of poverty and have the financial ability to purchase goods, there will be an increased demand for goods in general. American businesses and the economy will benefit, as U.S. trade constitutes significant portions of trade in numerous countries around the world. Promoting a stable economy with able buyers is critical to maintaining and increasing the strength of the U.S. economy.

The CARES Act could potentially save lives worldwide through direct medical aid and humanitarian assistance. USAID is working to equip medical workers around the world with the proper equipment and resources necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19. The CARES Act also provides funding to directly assist refugee populations without legal status in their current home. The U.S. aims to be a leader in solving this global crisis and the CARES Act could be a significant step in the right direction.

– Harry Yeung
Photo: Flickr