Native American small businesses, casinos now eligible for federal loans

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Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Mark Fox talks about the troubles caused by the coronavirus on his western North Dakota reservation on Wednesday, April 15. Barry Amundson / The Forum

FARGO — About 40% of the 400 employees at the 4Bears Casino and Lodge on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in central North Dakota were furloughed, with the others remaining on the payroll after it was closed on March 20.

Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Mark Fox received good news Friday, April 24, when U.S. Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer reported that Native American casinos and other tribally owned businesses will be eligible for a program from the Small Business Administration that is designed to help companies with under 500 employees to continue to meet payrolls and cover operating costs.

A part of the law passed in late March called the CARES Act didn't allow Native American casinos — or any casinos — to be eligible for the SBA's Paycheck Protection Program that ran out of money last week.

Hoeven, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said Friday that it was never the intent of Congress to withhold the aid from tribal businesses and casinos.

"Indian gaming enterprises are uniquely situated economic drivers for their local communities, and the majority of these tribal businesses are in rural areas where they are the primary employers," Hoeven said.


All of the five tribes in North Dakota operate casinos.

Fox said the move will "definitely help" his tribe.

With the greenlight, Fox said casino officials, who have already been working on an application, can submit it quickly.

Hoeven said with another $310 billion added to the program in a new congressional bill this week that applications would start to be accepted again this coming Monday, April 27.

Fox said he hopes that the casino can slowly begin to reopen soon and that it already is playing a key role in the reservation's task force to fight the virus by using its rental cabins as isolation units for those affected by the coronavirus.

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