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Sen. Tina Smith meets with MN Tribal Leaders to address COVID hardships

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COVID-19 has highlighted a long list of inequities faced by Native American communities across the country.

Wednesday night, U.S. Senator Tina Smith met with a panel of indigenous leaders around Minnesota to learn more about the impacts tribal nations are facing.

Tribal Nation leaders tuned in to a virtual panel expressing concern over funding allocated to their tribes during an economic crisis.

Among those leaders was Fond du Lac Tribal Chairman Kevin DuPuis. He said, "We never got 100% funding that's been guaranteed to us."

The Chairman said there was a lack of transparency when receiving funds from the U.S. CARES ACT. "We didn't know how much money was going to come, we didn't know how it was going to be broken down. Most importantly when it was, we wanted to know when it was going to come."

U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D) Minnesota, a member of the Indian Affairs Committee said she fought for $20-billion in federal aid for tribes across the state, instead, they received $8-billion.

Smith said those dollars don't come close to addressing the need that tribal governments have to replace lost revenue. "That $8-billion was specifically constrained to be only for, basically reimbursed for COVID-19 expenses."

Chair DuPuis said he hopes for a reduction in red tape when applying for the next round of funding. "Let us spend the money the way we know how to spend the money. We can show you by data that we spend the money the right way."

DuPuis said he is thankful for the funds Fond du Lac has been able to receive so far.

Sen. Smith said she will keep advocating for aid within tribal communities in Washington.

Jessie Slater

Evening Anchor and Reporter

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