Situation Analysis

The COVID-19 Pandemic has irrevocably altered the global community resulting in incredible loss of life and irreparable harm to economies and social norms that resulted from mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the virus. Tribal communities, including our membership on the Flathead Indian Reservation, are particularly susceptible to long-term harm from COVID-19 due to the social nature of tribal communities, relative lack of resources available, and, of specific concern, the concentration of historic cultural and language knowledge that is within the highest risk group effected by the virus - Tribal Elders and youth.

Currently, out of a total enrolled population of just over 8,000, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have only 13 fluent Salish language speakers and only 12 fluent Kootenai language speakers. A crucial connection exists between native language and historic tribal culture and therefore this small group of individuals also represents the strongest connection for our people to past generations and tribal identity. These groups consist almost entirely of Elders who have traditionally passed down both language and culture to the future generations. Additionally, the tribes have long placed a high value on the lives of our youth who are the connection to our future.

CSKT’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic focuses on ensuring the public health and safety of our community including that of our tribal elders and youth.  To accomplish those goals and effectively utilize the funding that CSKT has received from the federal government (specifically through the Department of Treasury’s Coronavirus Relief Fund), Tribal Council has identified a list of priority areas that are laid out in this document. These priorities are intended to protect our most vulnerable populations through a multi-faceted approach that will contribute to long-term mitigation of the COVID-19 virus’ spread and impact. They do not represent all of the efforts that CSKT is undertaking, which include significant efforts being facilitated through CSKT’s Tribal Health Department and in other CSKT departments. 

CSKT Tribal Council Priority Setting Process

During April, May and June 2020, CSKT Tribal Council and Executive staff convened a series of meetings to identify the immediate and long-term needs of the Flathead Reservation and the CSKT membership with the stated goal of ensuring CSKT’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts address all relevant needs across the organization, community, and membership; eliminates duplication of effort; encompass immediate and long-term objectives; provide appropriate targets/objectives for staff; and that all relevant compliance and timeline considerations are included.

The resulting 11 priorities were divided into two categories:

EXTERNAL: Areas of need within the Flathead Reservation community and its tribal and non-tribal citizens.

INTERNAL: Areas of need within the CSKT Tribal government to allow safe working conditions for CSKT employees and the safety of members of the public as they engage with the government and its employees.

The CSKT Tribal Council then allocated the initial funding received by the tribes from the Department of Treasury’s Coronavirus Relief Fund ($29,109,309) and tasked staff with developing plans to disburse those funds in a manner consistent with the overall CSKT goals and the requirements imposed by the federal government. Subsequently, CSKT received a second allocation from the same Treasury Fund ($11,624,633) which was added to the pool.

The following descriptions of each priority area represent staff recommendations and are subject to reconsideration by Council based on the availability of additional Coronavirus Relief Fund payments, ability to achieve stated goals, and changes in the overall needs of our community as the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates. 

EXTERNAL PRIORITIES

1. Providing Economic Stimulus and Relief to Individual Tribal Members

Priority Summary

The impacts of COVID-19 are wide-spread and have effected individuals and families in innumerable ways during 2020. In order to alleviate the burden and provide immediate relief to CSKT’s Tribal member individuals and families, CSKT will provide a direct payment to its membership similar to that which was provided to all U.S. families by the Federal Government. A general “Request for Support” application will need to be filled out for administrative purposes that needs to be submitted by July 30th. Payments will be dispersed starting August 14th. 

Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocation

$ 15,200,000

2. Support of Homelessness and Housing Efforts to Facilitate Effective Sheltering of Membership

Priority Summary

One of the unique challenges that the Flathead Reservation faced, similar to many other tribal communities across the US in fighting the spread of COVID-19 was the lack of secure housing for many of its residents. Multi-generational living (out of necessity, not choice), temporary living arrangements (e.g. couch surfing, short-term rentals, etc.), and a lack of sufficient emergency housing for those in need (e.g. domestic violence shelters, addiction recovery housing arrangements, etc.) each resulted in an inability for many CSKT members to effectively shelter-in-place and self-quarantine. Additionally, cramped living conditions resulting from the factors mentioned above did not allow for those families to effectively follow recommended cleaning and sanitization methods provided by public health officials. CSKT, therefore, will seek to address the root causes of those issues by expanding housing options across the Reservation with a focus on some of the specific issues identified during the COVID-19 pandemic and its response. 

Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocation

$ 7,275,000

3. Reservation Internet Infrastructure Upgrades

Priority Summary

One of the most significant identified areas of need facing the Reservation community in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic was the lack of sufficient internet access by both CSKT employees to allow for remote work and members of the public to access the services provided by the CSKT staff. This includes the ability to effectively provide and receive telehealth services, provide and receive distance education at all levels, and to provide and receive essential social services of all types. CSKT will utilize a portion of the Coronavirus Relief Fund to greatly expand access to both the CSKT network and internet options, in general, by expanding the limited fiber optic cable availability on the Reservation and by providing a specific means of accessing those components through wireless transmission sites across the reservation. 

Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocation

$ 4,365,000

4. Economic Support to Local Businesses and Industries

Priority Summary

Due to the unprecedented impact to the local economy on the Reservation, particularly on the many small businesses who rely on the influx of tourism to the area that was interrupted by the State’s travel restrictions, CSKT will establish a series of economic programs to provide aid to those who were adversely impacted by lost revenues and lost opportunities. In addition, CSKT will seek to encourage growth in industries that can support the area’s recovery efforts in general by providing more locally produced goods that were difficult to procure during the supply chain interruptions caused by COVID-19. 

Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocation

$ 2,910,000

5. Ensuring Food Security for all Reservation Residents

Priority Summary

The ability to ensure those individuals within our membership and community have the ability to access food has long been a driver in the efforts of the CSKT government and when the availability of food to feed families came into question as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions put into place directly by governing bodies or indirectly due to supply-chain restrictions it became clear that a significant need existed in our communities to access food that was not subject to the ability of far-away producers bringing those goods to the Reservation, but rather our local communities and residents need sufficient local sources of food to effectively combat the spread of COVID-19. The Tribal Council does not want to put its membership at risk by forcing them to venture into higher-risk areas to purchase the basic necessities of life. Therefore, a portion of the Coronavirus Relief Fund is being allocated to increasing access to the already abundant, but not currently accessible, food supply that exists on the Reservation. 

Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocation

$ 2,910,000

6. Supporting Local Grassroots Efforts

Priority Summary

One of the few bright spots identified during the COVID-19 pandemic was the strong show of support to the Reservation community by established and newly created community organizations. Many organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, food banks, Senior Citizen’s Centers, and others stepped up to provide needed support for community members facing difficulty and, in doing so, significantly depleted their resources and put their continued ability to provide those essential services at risk. CSKT will provide direct economic support to those organizations to ensure they are able to continue to partner with the Tribe in its on-going efforts to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These distributions will facilitated by CSKT through the establishment of a series of applications that will be made available to all eligible entities based on those entities’ documented COVID-19 impacts. 

Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocation

$ 1,164,000

7. Ensuring Public Safety for Residents and Visitors to the Reservation

Priority Summary

Another one of the unique challenges that CSKT faced during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic was the management of public access to tribal recreation areas as a result of the mixed-jurisdictional efforts needed to enforce shelter-in-place and other similar restrictive orders. CSKT, therefore, has allocated a portion of the Coronavirus Relief Fund to establish temporary monitoring stations in strategic, high-traffic, recreation areas to inform the public entering those areas of the restrictions that are currently in place and how they can appropriately comply with those restrictions. This allocation will also be used to address similar needs in the future to address public safety concerns which arise as our community continues its efforts to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19. 

Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocation

$ 873,000

8. Enhancing Communication to the General Public for COVID-Related Impacts

Priority Summary

Perhaps the greatest challenge for CSKT in responding to COVID-19 was the ability to effectively reach Reservation residents with information concerning the specific impacts of the virus on our communities. Everything from the availability of services to members to fact-based information on the virus itself became a challenge to communicate during a time of limited social interaction and a flood of other erroneous messaging from out of area. CSKT will utilize a portion of the Coronavirus Relief Fund to ensure there is direct, effective, and relevant communication to all members of the public throughout the remaining time that COVID-19 is still a threat to our people. 

Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocation

$ 873,000

INTERNAL PRIORITIES

1. Necessary Improvements to CSKT-Owned Facilities

Priority Summary

In order to provide a safe environment for both CSKT employees and visiting members of the public, CSKT will identify and address structural and cosmetic changes that are necessary to ensure compliance with COVID-19 public health guidelines and recommendations. These upgrades will include, at-a-minimum: installation of plexiglass germ shields; deep cleaning of CSKT-building HVAC systems; upgrading HVAC to include HEPA filters; contracting for CDC recommended periodic deep cleaning of CSKT offices; changing office space configurations to allow for increased employee social distancing and reduced visitor congestion; and, replacing current water fountains with touchless options where feasible.  

Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocation

$ 5,820,000

2. Personal Protective Equipment

Priority Summary

For the safety and protection of CSKT employees and visitors, CSKT will ensure that adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) is made available to all staff and public according to public health recommendations.  

Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocation

$ 1,455,000

3. CSKT Government Remote Working Environment Improvements

Priority Summary

Increase CSKT government employee’s ability to perform their assigned duties in a safe, socially-distanced environment by providing the equipment, software, and related infrastructure necessary for those employees to work remotely. 

 Coronavirus Relief Fund Allocation

 $ 1,455,000

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