Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico)
Posted: April 7, 2020

Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) addresses the winter session of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C, on February 11, 2020. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Sen. Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, delivered the following remarks in connection with a Democratic legislative proposal to boost pay for coronavirus frontline workers in Indian Country:

I know I speak for the people of my state — and for all the American people — when I offer my deepest thanks to the essential workers who are on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus.


These essential workers in my home state of New Mexico are just that: essential.


They are risking their own health to protect ours, to care for our loved ones, to keep us safe, and to keep our communities running.


We owe these heroes more than just words of gratitude. We must put our money where our mouth is — and make sure these workers are paid what they deserve.


Providing premium pay to essential workers is not just the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do – to make sure we recruit and retain a strong workforce to continue working on the front lines of this crisis.


As the vice chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, I thank Senator Schumer for working with my staff to ensure this proposal will give Tribal frontline workers equal access to these benefits. And to ensure that it has the necessary flexibility to account for the unique needs of Native communities.


Because this crisis is hitting Indian Country especially hard. Essential workers in Native communities are stretched thin. The pandemic is worsening an already existing challenge in Indian Country — where Native communities have struggled to recruit and retain workers in critical fields like health care and law enforcement, due to severe federal underfunding.


So this proposal is absolutely necessary for Indian Country — to help Native communities weather this crisis, to support the essential workers who are doing incredible, life-saving work, and to secure the strong workforce that is needed to keep Native communities healthy and strong.”

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