Office of United States Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
Yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, called for the Senate to pass comprehensive COVID-19 relief legislation for all Americans that includes critical assistance to Tribal governments and the Indian Health Service (IHS) to aid in their COVID-19 response efforts. Udall’s call for a comprehensive, bipartisan COVID-19 relief legislation with targeted resources for Tribal governments and the Indian Health Service comes after Senate Republican leadership again proposed an inadequate package that excludes such funding, and a bipartisan group of members released an outline of a $900 billion package. Udall helped secure $10 billion for Tribes in the CARES Act.
“Tribal Nations have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic with strength and resilience, but they are still battling the disproportionate toll of this public health crisis. The federal government must redouble its efforts to meet our trust and treaty obligations by providing fresh resources to the Indian Health Service – which works with Tribes and urban Indian health programs to coordinate the federal public health response to COVID-19 – and supporting Tribal governments’ COVID-19 relief work as the pandemic surges across the country. End of year legislation must also fully support Indian Health Service vaccine distribution, management, and monitoring throughout Indian Country. I worked hard with Senator Schumer and colleagues in both parties to secure historic levels of funding for Tribes in the CARES Act, but that funding is being depleted and will expire in a few short weeks if we don’t act.
“Because of chronic underfunding for Tribal heath and bureaucratic obstacles to building infrastructure, this pandemic has strained Native health systems, disrupted Tribal economies, and disproportionately hurt Native families. While I am encouraged by the recent bipartisan Senate proposal that includes additional funding for State, Local, and Tribal governments, it is not nearly enough.
“As we move forward, we must ensure that Tribal governments have the resources they need to support COVID-19 response efforts in their own communities, and that Indian Health Service has the funding it needs to deliver a U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved vaccine safely and fairly to Tribes and urban Indian health programs. This is the bottom line: Congress should not leave for the year without providing additional COVID relief to the American people, and Native communities should not be left behind. I urge my Republican colleagues, some of whom helped us overcome opposition to Tribal relief earlier this year, to join the effort once again. Just as we did earlier this year, we should work on a bipartisan basis to deliver that necessary relief. Our shared trust and treaty obligations demand nothing less.”