Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the passage of the American Rescue Plan in the House and its historic investment in Native communities. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
The American Rescue Plan finally cleared the hurdle in Congress yesterday by passing the House.
The Plan is now only a signature away, a Presidential signature, from becoming law.
Soon—very soon—the most sweeping federal recovery effort in recent history will get underway.
Direct checks will be delivered to American families from coast to coast, roughly 85% of all households. The American people can expect those $1,400 checks for each person in the family to be delivered by the end of March.
And we’re making amazingly good progress on vaccines. Vaccines will be available far more quickly to far more people. Just this morning, the Biden administration announced an expansion of the vaccine program.
And I was able to announce that more than 100 community health centers in my home state of New York will be eligible to get their own dedicated supply of vaccines.
There is a brand-new vaccine supercharge for New York, and for some of the rest of the nation as well. The crux: more vaccines and more sites to administer them. Over 100 sites will be set up across New York state to administer a massive influx of new shot supplies.
There is light at the end of this COVID tunnel, which has always been centered on access to a free vaccine for all New Yorkers. More access and more shots means a quicker recovery—and that's what we want, and that is becoming available for my home state of New York and for the entire nation.
The C.H.C. Sites—community health center sites—will be federally funded, organized by the Department of Health and Human Services, a huge expansion.
We have all heard stories—numerous stories—of people having to travel too far to get the vaccine, hampering our ability to recover and return to normal. With this announcement—more vaccines and more New York sites to administer them—New Yorkers have something to celebrate, and I thank the President for working with us to make this effort real and to bring it to every state in the nation.
Now, other things are happening, too. Our schools will receive critical assistance to update their infrastructure, to hire more teachers and tutors, and prepare to re-open as fast and as safe as possible.
There’s going to be money for broadband. There's going to be dollars for rural hospitals. There's going to be dollars to help our tribal nations, all who are suffering. The new Restaurants Act, so important to so many of our states, is becoming law. More money for Save Our Stages, to help our arts institutions, is coming.
And perhaps the thing that we are most proud of, although there are so many in this bill: helping people with their pensions, making sure those who are laid off still get health care by funding COBRA fully.
So many good things for average working families, but maybe the most important of all—who knows, there are so many good things in this bill—but maybe it's the child tax credit which will cut childhood poverty in half.
When a child is born into poverty, through no fault of his or her own, they don't get adequate nutrition. They don't get adequate health care. They don't get adequate housing. They don't get adequate education. Then when they go into young adulthood, they have nowhere to go. And then they get blamed for their plight. The better, smarter, more effective thing to do is help them get out of poverty early, so they can lead good, productive lives as citizens and as taxpayers.
We're doing that for the first time here, and I hope it's something that we can continue.
Simply put: the American Rescue plan is one of the most significant pieces of legislation to pass the Congress in recent history.
Yesterday, I started describing in more detail some of the lesser-known aspects of the Plan. Everyone knows the vaccines are coming, the $1400 checks, the money for schools is coming. And now people know about the child tax credit.
But there are lots of other things in this bill. Today I want to continue by talking about another unheralded provision: assistance to Native communities—a topic very much on theme today, given the nomination of Secretary Haaland.
One of the most tragic features of the COVID-19 pandemic is how destructive it has been for America’s tribal nations. Native Americans have faced the highest risk of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19—bar none. The highest. Early in this crisis, the Navajo Nation, to take one example, saw more cases per capita than any other state in the country.
Decades, decades, of an unraveling social safety net, declining economic opportunity, an overburdened health system, and a failure of the federal government to honor its trust obligations to American tribes left Native communities unequipped to handle the crisis.
But in the American Rescue Plan, Democrats will deliver the single largest investment in Native programs in our nation’s history. We are very proud of that. It is historic. The single largest investment in Native communities in our nation’s history.
More than $31.2 billion in direct funding will go to the tribes and communities to defeat this pandemic and rebuild their communities.
Twenty billion directly to tribal governments so they can stabilize essential services. Six billion to the Indian Health Service—not just for vaccines and testing and tracing, but to improve and restore these rural, long-neglected hospitals.
Hundreds of millions more for native education.
Ten million will go just to make sure that these communities can access clean water.
Listen to the items I just mentioned: clean water, keeping hospitals running, connecting kids to broadband. These are absolute necessities. And the American Rescue Plan is going to dedicate resources to all of them for Indian Country.
I want to thank a whole bunch of my colleagues —so many contributed. But the Chair of the Indian Affairs Committee, Senator Schatz, Senators Tester and Cantwell and Smith and Kelly and Ben Ray Luján and Heinrich. Very, very important. Senator Heinrich particularly pushed for broadband. So it’s a team effort and I am proud of my colleagues.
The American Rescue Plan takes us a giant step closer to fulfilling our trust responsibilities to all Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians.
This is just one example—an important one—of how the American Rescue Plan will dramatically improve the lives of millions of people in this great country of ours.