Lake Babine Nation is one of six First Nations in the Burns Lake area receiving federal money to bolster their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)

Feds providing First Nations with COVID-19 response money

Can be used for food, education, mental health services

Northwestern First Nations are receiving federal money to bolster their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each First Nation is getting a base grant of $50,000 and then more based on population, its location and the overall current well-being of their members.

First announced March 18, the national allocation for First Nations, Metis, Inuit and off-reserve indigenous organizations is $305 million with $39.567 million of that meant for B.C. first Nations and $3.75 million for B.C. Metis organizations.

Off-reserve organizations across the country are to divide $15 million between them.

The amount for B.C. First Nations was originally pegged at $41.129 million but then trimmed when balanced against the national allocation.

In announcing the money, the federal government said it could be used to support elders and vulnerable community members, to buy food, to provide educational and other support for children, for mental health assistance and emergency responses and measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Across the northwest, various First Nations have erected signs at entrances to their communities asking that there by no outside traffic with the exception of members living elsewhere and those providing essential services.

While each First Nation has already been told how much it will receive, those amounts have not yet been released.

“Current efforts are focused on flowing the funds to the communities across the country in order to support emergency responses,” the federal Indigenous Services Canada department indicated in an email.

“The production of verified and consistent summary financial tables will be undertaken after all transfers are complete, and amounts are confirmed as final.”

One northwestern B.C. indigenous organization, the 3Nations Society consisting of the Tahltan, Kaska and Tlingit First Nations, has already indicated it received $100,000.

“3Nations will be contracting a company with pandemic planning experience to provide all three nations with expert advice and assistance going forward,” the society said in a release.

To date, the broad 3Nations plan has four main points:

– prevent the arrival of COVID-19 and limiting community spread if required.

– Protect and minimize health impacts to community members at greater risk from COVID-19

– Strengthening public health measures

– Reducing social and economic impacts.

Off-reserve indigenous organizations had to apply for money and the deadline for that was April 13.

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