Sens. Udall and Smith Speak Out on Senate Floor Calling on Senate to Immediately Provide Additional COVID-19 Relief for Tribes

NEWS FROM THE U.S. SENATE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 1, 2020

Senators’ push for additional funds comes as disproportionate impact of COVID-19 weighs on Indian Country’s limited resources

Video of Senator Udall:

Video of Senator Smith:

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) spoke on the Senate floor about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on American Indian and Alaska Native communities in the United States, and called for immediate Senate action on additional COVID-19 relief for Native American Tribes necessary to uphold trust and treaty responsibilities and effectively address the outbreak.

Udall and Smith focused on the longstanding injustices facing Native communities and decades of federal underfunding that have exacerbated the COVID-19 crisis in Indian Country. The senators urged the Republican Senate majority to act on another COVID-19 relief package to address the urgent needs of American Indian and Alaska Native communities across the country. The senators’ remarks also drew attention to the Trump Administration’s slow and unacceptable response to the pandemic in Indian Country and stressed the need for greater Congressional oversight.

“We already knew that pandemics like this take an awful toll on Native communities. It’s unforgiveable that the administration was not better prepared.” Udall said. “Throughout this crisis, Native communities have fought back. They are resilient. But Tribal responses to the pandemic have been repeatedly hamstrung by this administration and Congressional inaction. Each day we fail to act – to advance policies to address the disparities faced by Indian Country – is a day we fail to uphold our oath of office. The Republican Senate Majority has delayed far too long. Inaction in the face of this disaster is unconscionable. This body must get down to the business we were elected to do. It’s long past time we pass another COVID relief package.”

“We should take this extraordinary moment, a moment when our country is called to respond to a terrible pandemic and to reckon with systemic inequity that has hurt Native people, and even sought to erase them, and turn it to good,” said Sen. Smith. “We have an opportunity to not only address the public health and economic crisis of COVID-19, but also to live up to our obligation to Tribes. We need to uphold our responsibility to provide tools to build resiliency in these communities.”

The full text of Udall’s remarks can be found here.