Venetie tribal government prepares for CARES Act funds
While the exact amount of the $8 billion of the CARES Act set aside for tribal governments could change depending on whether or not a higher court decides Alaska Native Corporations can also receive the funds, the need in rural Alaska is pressing.
Venetie, about 45 miles Northwest of Fort Yukon, doesn't have running water, and the main source of the village's water for cleaning and laundry has been broken.
"So people have to go down to the river and pack water to the houses," said Myra Thumma, Second Chief of the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government. "And with the coronavirus we have to sanitize everything and keep the house, the clothes, everything ready. A lot of people don't have good sanitary water buckets and stuff like that."
The Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government was one of several tribal government plaintiffs from both Alaska and the lower 48 that filed suit against the U.S. Department of Treasury claiming that Alaska Native Corporations are not defined as "tribal governments."
Thumma said that the tribal government will meet with the community before deciding how to use the funds it receives from the CARES Act.
"We don't have a hospital. All we have is a small community clinic and we only have one health aid. And the clinic has some supplies, but they can't give it all to the whole community, so we need to purchase some cleaning supplies and PPE," Thumma said. "Some of our people are in Fairbanks and need to come back, and we need a place for them to quarantine before they go back to the public. And I think that's where some of the money will go, too."