Four San Diego County tribes will receive a total of $3.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for coronavirus recovery efforts. Established by funding made available through the CARES Act, the $100 million Indian Community Development Block Grant program aims to help Indigenous nations increase public health efforts to prevent the spread and mitigate the effects of COVID-19, while also increasing the safety of tribal members. Federally recognized tribes and tribal organizations were able to apply for the grants for projects to address “imminent threats to health and safety,” such as preparing for, preventing the spread of and responding to the novel coronavirus, according to the ICDBG-CARES implementation notice. A total of 13 tribes from California were selected to receive the funding. HUD will award $900,000 to the Campo Band of Mission Indians, $800,000 to the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians in Pauma Valley, $900,000 to the Pala Band of Mission Indians, and $900,000 to the Manzanita Band of Diegueno Indians in Boulevard. The grants are intended to improve homes on reservations to decrease the risk of spreading coronavirus, such as through better ventilation systems, said HUD Regional Administrator Chris Patterson, whose area covers covers Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and the U.S. Pacific Territories. Tribal governments have been hit particularly hard with the temporary closure of business enterprises like casinos back in March due to the pandemic. Unlike local, county and state governments that can collect tax revenue on property, income and sales, tribes primarily receive their funding through their business endeavors and the federal government. Funds can be used to help with the construction of new rental housing to decrease homelessness and overcrowding in homes on tribal lands, and to fix or build water systems so tribal members have access to water, according to the ICDBG-CARES implementation notice. Internet and phone services can also be improved to provide the access to community members who have shifted to working from home and online distance learning during the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Interior’s Indian Affairs Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development government awarded $1.2 million in grants for internet feasibility studies to tribes across the country in mid-August, but only four tribes in California were picked. That list did not include any of San Diego’s 18 Indigenous nations. Funding through the CARES Act may also be used to provide food to those who are geographically isolated and to buy or refurbish clinic facilities to be used to test, diagnose and treat tribal members. The Pala Band of Mission Indians plans to use the grant to support the elders in their community who are potentially more vulnerable to the virus. The money will be used for cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment and getting ADA access to bathrooms, Chairman Robert Smith said. “It’s going to help out a lot,” Smith said. “We’re making all the elders stay home, and they don’t want to come out, so we have an elders program to check on them. We bring items to them once a month and make sure they’re alright, and we home deliver their meals five days a week.” There are currently 71 cases of COVID-19 in the Pala reservation ZIP code, according to San Diego County data, but not everyone in the ZIP code is a tribal member, Smith said. He added that most of the cases have been among asymptomatic, younger residents and no tribal members have died.
75 views0 comments