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Michigan tribes get millions in federal COVID-19 relief grants

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The Bay Mills Indian Community is one of two tribal communities in Michigan receiving just over $1 million in federal grant funding for COVID-19 relief.

Two Michigan tribal communities have each received just over $1 million in federal grants from the department of housing and urban development to help with COVID-19 recovery.

The Bay Mills Indian Community in the eastern Upper Peninsula will use its grant to build an addition to its health clinic.

Tribal Manager Rachel Lyons said the new vestibule will let staff screen patients for illness before they go inside the main clinic. She said until now, there’s been no safe place to do that, leading to “a lot of close, one-on-one contact” between staff and unscreened patients.

“It increases the danger to our staff members,” she said. “This will definitely help to make a safer workplace.”

Lyons said the addition to the clinic will remain important even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. “It’s a way to mitigate any kind of transmission of airborne illnesses,” she said.

Lyons said getting this type of grant from the federal housing department is a big deal.

“We are so excited here at Bay Mills. Construction grants are very few and far between. They’re highly competitive, and we’ve been turned down many times,” she said.

Lyons said the funding is especially important because the Bay Mills community is in a rural area, and the tribe’s health center -- which is open to the public and not just tribal members -- is the only accessible clinic for much of the local population.

The federal housing department awarded the other grant in Michigan to the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in the western U.P. The tribe will use the money to build isolation housing units for people diagnosed with COVID-19.

In all, the federal government said this round of funding included nearly $74 million in grants to tribal communities.