Udall Holds Roundtable with Tribal Leaders, Calls for Urgent Senate Action on Additional COVID Relief and Tribal Priorities

Sep 17, 2020

cid:image001.png@01D62F86.A83D96A0

 

For Immediate Release

September 17, 2020

Contact: Ned Adriance

202.228.6870 | news@tomudall.senate.gov| @SenatorTomUdall

 

Udall Holds Roundtable with Tribal Leaders, Calls for Urgent Senate Action on Additional COVID Relief and Tribal Priorities

 

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, held a virtual roundtable with Tribal leaders as part of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Tribal Unity Impact Days event. During the roundtable, Udall discussed his continued efforts to secure more federal resources to respond to the ongoing pandemic and his work on legislative priorities for Native communities. Udall then answered questions from Tribal leaders on the potential for further federal coronavirus relief and the outlook on federal spending bills.

 

“I’m always glad to have the opportunity to spend some time with Tribal leaders from across the country, including my home state of New Mexico,” Udall said. “I’m sure the COVID-19 pandemic – and its terrible health and economic impacts in your communities – are top of mind.

 

“As vice chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, I worked closely with Leader Schumer and the Democratic caucus to secure historic levels of funding for Tribes in the CARES Act,” Udall continued. “But we all know that Tribal communities need more federal resources to respond to the ongoing pandemic.”

 

Udall highlighted Senate Republican obstruction to further coronavirus relief for Tribes. “That’s why I am so disappointed that the White House is refusing to engage in serious negotiations with Democratic leaders and that Leader McConnell has refused to take up the HEROES Act, which the House passed back in May... Instead, last week the Senate voted on a ‘skinny’ bill that didn’t address any of the relief Tribes have prioritized. I’ve made it very clear – the Senate cannot leave Indian Country behind in our COVID-19 relief efforts.”

 

Udall also addressed other legislation he has championed on Indian Country priorities. “So far this Congress, the [Senate Committee on Indian Affairs] has seen six of its bills enacted into law, including my Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act, which reauthorized through 2024 Native languages grant programs that have already proven their success, enabling more than 4,000 youth and adults to speak a Native language on a yearly basis.

 

 “I fully intend to continue to work my hardest for Indian Country every day – from now until my last day as a U.S. Senator,” Udall concluded. “Thank you for your continuing partnership.”

 

Udall’s full remarks as prepared are below.

 

Good afternoon. Thank you for that kind introduction, Kevin.

 

It’s great to join you and NCAI’s membership for this year’s virtual Tribal Unity Impact Days.

 

I’m always glad to have the opportunity to spend some time with Tribal leaders from across the country, including my home state of New Mexico.

I’m sure the COVID-19 pandemic – and its terrible health and economic impacts in your communities – are top of mind.

 

As vice chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, I worked closely with Leader Schumer and the Democratic caucus to secure historic levels of funding for Tribes in the CARES Act.

 

But we all know that Tribal communities need more federal resources to respond to the ongoing pandemic.

 

That’s why I am so disappointed that the White House is refusing to engage in serious negotiations with Democratic leaders and that Leader McConnell has refused to take up the HEROES Act, which the House passed back in May.

 

In addition to providing more funding for Tribes, the HEROES Act adopted several bills and policies I’ve championed in the Senate that would –

- Make the Strategic National Stockpile directly available to Tribes and the IHS;

- Ensure Tribes have equitable access to Centers for Disease Control public health emergency preparedness resources;

- Address implementation issues with the Treasury Coronavirus Relief Fund;

- Waive FEMA’s federal disaster cost-shares for Tribes; and

- Improve high-speed broadband access in Tribal communities.

 

Instead, last week the Senate voted on a “skinny” bill that didn’t address any of the relief Tribes have prioritized.

 

I’ve made it very clear – the Senate cannot leave Indian Country behind in our COVID-19 relief efforts. Plain and simple – that bill was a non-starter, and I’m glad our vote showed that.

 

I’ve been keeping daily tabs on the virus’s impacts throughout Indian Country. And I have been inspired by the important steps Tribes have taken to protect your citizens and respond to the pandemic.

 

Please know that I remain committed to fighting for Tribal priorities in Congress’s coronavirus response.

 

Turning to updates from the Indian Affairs Committee, which I’ve had the honor of leading alongside Chairman Hoeven for the second Congress in a row.

 

In the 116th Congress alone, we’ve –

- Held over 20 hearings and business meetings;

- Sent 22 bills to the full Senate; and

- Facilitated two Senate confirmations.

 

So, I’m proud to continue the bipartisan tradition of the Committee as we seek to advance the legislative priorities for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and the Native Hawaiian community.

 

By way of example, so far this Congress, the Committee has seen 6 of its bills enacted into law, including my Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act, which reauthorized through 2024 Native languages grant programs that have already proven their success, enabling more than 4,000 youth and adults to speak a Native language on a yearly basis.

 

And a number of Senate-passed Indian Affairs bills currently await House action.

 

One of those bills is the bipartisan PROGRESS Act, which I co-led with Chairman Hoeven. This bill would amend the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act to

- Provide clearer guidance for self-governance compact negotiations; and

- Promote greater accountability.

 

Another is my Native American Business Incubators Act, which would help jumpstart Tribal economies by filling critical gaps for Native entrepreneurs who often face unique barriers in access to capital and resources.

 

Especially during this time of COVID-19, Indian Country’s need for the economic drivers in Incubators is more pressing than ever.

I encourage you to reach out to your House delegations and ask for their support in getting these two bills to the House floor and enacted into law.

As many of you know, I’m not running for reelection, so this is my last Congress in the Senate.

 

I fully intend to continue to work my hardest for Indian Country every day – from now until my last day as a U.S. Senator.

 

Thank you for your continuing partnership. Now, I’m happy to answer your questions.

 

###