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August 7, 2020

Mass. Congressional Delegation Reiterates Request for Trump Administration to Fully Fund COVID-19 Response for Tribal Nations in Massachusetts

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Representatives William Keating (MA-09), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-04), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Richard E. Neal (MA-01), and Seth Moulton (MA-06), sent a letter to President Trump to reiterate their request to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to waive all of the traditional cost-share requirements for all COVID-19-related assistance for the Commonwealth’s two federally recognized tribal nations, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. 

In early April, the chairperson of each tribal nation wrote to President Trump to request a waiver from any cost share, citing the financial hardship caused by the pandemic. The Massachusetts congressional delegation then wrote to President Trump to urge him to direct FEMA to increase its federal cost share to 100% for the two tribal nations. Unlike states, the two tribal nations do not have a tax base to help cover the cost of services to their citizens and as a result, they have not been able to implement fully all the emergency measures they would have been able to take if they did not bear a significant share of the cost. In addition, the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations require that tribal nations not be left to suffer severe hardship from an emergency.

“We have not received a reply to our letter, nor have the tribal nations received a response to their requests. Given the emergency faced by the tribal nations, and their nation-to-nation relationship with the federal government, further delays are unacceptable,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate and tragic impact on Native communities. Seven tribal nations have COVID-19 case rates higher than any state in the United States. Indian Country has not received adequate resources for public health and emergency management, either before or during this public health emergency,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“Granting the requests of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, and waiving the traditional cost share requirements for all COVID-19-related assistance to them, will better empower them to address this pandemic,” the lawmakers continued. They also noted that other funding provided by Congress to tribal nations is not a substitute for this waiver.