The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced last week that it allocated nearly $ 70 million in block grants to Indian community development to 49 tribal communities, including the Blackfeet, Fort Belknap, Fort Peck and Northern Cheyenne tribes in Montana.
The block grants, made possible through the US Rescue Plan, are intended to help indigenous communities prevent, prepare for and respond to the pandemic through the financing of housing, rehabilitation and water infrastructure. according to a press release.
The Blackfeet Housing Program received $ 1,450,000 to complete several community projects, including the rehabilitation of a community center where food and personal protective equipment can be distributed and COVID-19 tests and vaccinations can be administered.
Fort Belknap Tribal Housing Authority received $ 1,035,000 to rehabilitate 30 homes.
The Fort Peck Housing Authority received $ 1,725,000 to rehabilitate 15 vacant homes and build a three-bedroom home.
The Northern Cheyenne Tribal Housing Authority received $ 1,725,000 to make emergency repairs to about 248 housing units and install emergency power to the Shoulderblade Elder Complex.
Adrianne Todman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said the grants will “provide reasonable relief to tribal communities.”
“The tribes have experienced many years of underinvestment and are facing significant backlogs of unmet needs, and these funds show what is possible when the tribes are provided with additional resources,” Todman said.
As a consequence of repression and long-term disinvestment, Native American communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. COVID-19 was the leading cause of death among Native Americans in Montana and the third leading cause of death among all residents of Montana in 2020, according to a Department of Public Health and Human Services in December report. The report found that 1,022 Indians in Montana died in 2020, compared to an average of 676 deaths each year in the previous five years (2015-2019). Of the 1,022 natives who died in 2020, 251, or about 25%, died of COVID-19.
The U.S. rescue plan allocated $ 750 million in resources from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the Indian country, and in 2021, HUD invested $ 450 million in housing block grants.