WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced legislation that extends the period during which States, Indian Tribes, territories, and local governments may use Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) payments, allocated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. If enacted, this bipartisan legislation will allow the relief funds to be used until September 30, 2021, rather than the original deadline of the end of this year, December 30, 2020.
The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, allocated $150 billion to create the Coronavirus Relief Fund, out of which $8 billion were reserved for tribal governments. However, Indian Country did not receive any funds until May 5, 2020, well after the bill’s statutory deadline. Alaska Natives in small, remote villages often travel long distances for healthcare, have limited internet to high-speed internet, and many homes lack running water and electricity, making legislation to extend the deadline to use CARES Act funding even more urgent.
“In crafting the CARES Act, Congress worked hard to ensure that Americans continue to have access to much needed, targeted relief. Unfortunately, a number of American Indian and Alaska Native communities, many of which have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, did not receive any funds until well after the CARES Act’s statutory deadline. Particularly for our smaller communities in Alaska, spending this funding by the current deadline is an unreasonable task which is only compounded by the difficulties of preparing for Alaska’s harsh winter. As local governments continue to assess and respond to the needs created by this pandemic, it’s imperative that we aren’t putting up red tape,” said Senator Murkowski. “As we continue our efforts to respond to the impacts of COVID-19, I remain committed to putting the needs of Alaskans first. Right now, that means allowing the recipients of CARES Act funding the time and flexibility they need to put that vital funding to good use.”
“Local and state governments need additional assistance to protect public health and support our economy as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens,” said Senator Hassan. “Just this week I led a roundtable with Granite State leaders who shared with me that they need more funding to combat COVID-19, as well as more time to use it effectively. That’s why I’m working on a bipartisan basis to extend the deadline for state and local governments to use CARES Act funding, and I continue to push for additional funding for public health needs, state and local governments, small businesses, and individuals.”