On many reservations, health care facilities are already chronically underfunded, but coronavirus has stretched limited resources to the brink. A public health crisis has forced tribes to close businesses and a rapid economic downturn has exasperated poverty.
“It is a perfect storm. It is really highlighting the barriers that Indian country faces every day,” said Meredith Raimondi, a spokeswoman for the National Council of Urban Indian Health. “It is so chronically underfunded that everyone is starting from beyond. States are trying to play catch up and tribes are playing double catching up.”
The $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress last month
included $500 million for Indian Affairs and $8 billion for tribes, but community leaders say it isn’t enough. Shortages in testing supplies, medical equipment as well as infrastructure shortcomings including gaps in broadband and even clean drinking water in places like the Navajo Nation have made it harder for leaders there to stop the spread of the virus.