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Tribes lay off hundreds temporarily

“Standby” period ends in July

The Colville Tribes and the Colville Tribal Federal Corporation have temporarily laid off nearly 600 employees as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a letter from the Colville Business Council to their tribal membership explained Tuesday.

The letter, shared on The Tribal Tribune’s website and Facebook page late Tuesday afternoon, explains the reasoning behind the decision.

“Due to unprecedented challenges our tribe is facing due to the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic, we regrettably made the decision to place 178 employees on temporary lay-off or ‘standby’ starting on April 20, 2020 and ending on July 17, 2020,” the letter reads. “Additionally, Council decided that these employees’ regular contribution to their individual health insurance will be covered during this period.”

“These lay-offs are caused by COVID-19 circumstances and they are not related to anyone’s individual performance,” the letter continues. “Under the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security), these employees are eligible for unemployment benefits and will receive an additional $600 a week. This was the primary reason that Council made this decision at this time. We wanted our employees who were laid off to have the maximum advantage of these expanded benefits under the CARES Act, which begin retroactively back to March 29th.”

The letter states that over the past few weeks, as the pandemic developed that, “with the closure of most businesses, Council also realized laying off employees was inevitable.”

“Our Colville Tribal Federal Corporation (CTFC) will not have any casino revenue for April, May, and June with no certain reopening date,” the letter continues. “CTFC has also laid off 400 employees. We decided to conserve tribal resources for future needs and to take advantage of stimulus funding. We directed administration to identify those employees whose salaries are funded with tribal dollars and those deemed non-essential for us to consider for a lay-off or standby of their positions. The term ‘non-essential’ is not a reflection of the importance of an employee; it reflects organizational requirements needed during emergent times. All our employees are essential, and therefore Council postponed a lay-off until necessary. Our objective has been to keep everyone employed as long as possible. We also did not want to see the names of which employees would be laid off to remain objective. It turned out that 94% of these employees will receive more with unemployment than they would if they remained employed.”

The letter, signed “Colville Business Council” ends with the expressing of gratitude for employees’ contributions, well wishes, that they look forward to returning to work eventually, and something of a prayer.

“Our nselxcín Elders have a teaching that no one is left alone because of illness, times of need or death,” the letter reads. “We must step in so the circle of support is always there. … Please remember to pray for our people who have tested positive for their recovery and that they are not alone. Also, pray for our vulnerable, that they remain safe and healthy. This pandemic in time will pass and we will all be together once again.”


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