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US Interior secretary to highlight COVID-19 aid for tribes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is making her first official trip to her home state Tuesday to meet with Indigenous leaders.

She’ll host a roundtable discussion in New Mexico with the All Pueblo Council of Governors, members of the state’s congressional delegation and other officials. The agenda includes a conversation about the coronavirus pandemic and the devastating effects it has had on tribal nations.

A member of Laguna Pueblo and the first Native American to lead a U.S. Cabinet department, Haaland also is expected to highlight the federal government’s latest COVID-19 relief package. Democrats have billed the money set aside for Native American communities as the country’s largest, single investment in Indian Country.

About $20 billion will go to tribal governments to combat the virus and to stabilize community safety-net programs. The package also includes money for housing projects, the expansion of broadband access and educational programs.

Members of the tribal governors council also met recently with U.S. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, when he toured a vaccination clinic at Santo Domingo Pueblo in northern New Mexico. They told him the Indian Health Service has been chronically underfunded and that the pandemic helped to bring light to systemic problems such as access to health care and other basic services.

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