O’Halleran says $900 billion relief bill will benefit tribal lands

December 29, 2020
In The News

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — U.S. Rep. Tom O’ Halleran voted to approve funding for the $900 billion coronavirus aid bill. The measure passed the House of Representatives and Senate, and President Donald Trump signed the bill Dec. 27.

The measure approves sending $600 to every adult and every child; a family of five would get $3,000. People would get less if an individual made $75,000 or more and couples would get less if they made $150,000 or more.

The bill would also help with funding for businesses and the unemployed.

Trump had threatened to veto the bill and delayed signing it because he said he wanted $2,000 per person instead of $600.

The House of Representatives voted 327-85 and 359-53 in two separate bills for the coronavirus aid funding. The Senate combined the two and approved the measure by a 92-6 vote.

O’Halleran, who represents Arizona Congressional District One, which includes the Navajo and Hopi nations, said that if Trump had vetoed the coronavirus funding effort that Congress had enough votes to override his veto.

“It would not be constructive for the American people,” he said.

According to O’Halleran, Democratic leadership was originally attempting to get $2,000 per person in order to help businesses and individuals.

“There are too many people out of work. The coronavirus had a profound impact on the economy,” he said. “We’ve had several hard months.”

O’Halleran said it has been difficult to get Republican leadership to vote on the Heroes Act when Democrats were proposing $2,000 per person.

Trump had also threatened to shut down the government if he didn’t get the increase in funding for the relief bill.

O’Halleran said the Trump administration has made no indication until this point that they wanted more money per individual. He said the Republican leadership in Congress would not even agree to the $600 per person until they entered the negotiation talks.

“People have suffered longer because the Senate and the President wouldn’t act,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), a recently elected Arizona Democrat, said in a news release that he voted for the measure.

“This emergency relief will protect jobs and bolster our economy by helping those who need it most right now — individuals who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, small businesses working to make payroll, and families behind on rent or unable to put food on the table,” he said.

Kelly stated that Arizona’s tribal communities have been hit especially hard by the pandemic and have battled the virus with too little help from the federal government.

“Through work across the aisle with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and others, we were able to ensure that there is dedicated funding for tribal health care, education, broadband and other needed relief to continue fighting this pandemic,” he said.

In addition to the $600 per person, the bill also extends the timeline for tribal governments to spend coronavirus relief funds, giving the tribes more time to plan how the funding will be spent.

The bill will also help with an agreement of water coming from Mexico to Utah to help with water issues.

The bill will also appropriate $3.4 billion more funds for the Indian Health Service, appropriate $1 billion for sanitation and water delivery to reservations, supply more funding for broadband on reservations to help students with their educational needs, add $300 per week for those on unemployment in addition to unemployment benefits people receive from the states, add 15 percent for people receiving funding for food and gives $75 billion for Bureau of Indian Education schools.

O’Halleran said this funding is in addition to normal funding, not in replace of it.

O’Halleran stated the final bills passed by Congress was a bipartisan agreement as the Democrats wanted $2,2 trillion in the overall spending bill, but settled for $1.3 trillion in the negotiations.

He said more funding for vaccines are needed as the government approved spending $400 million on the vaccines which is enough for 200 million of the 303 million people in America.

According to O’Halleran, Pfizer offered the government another 100 million vaccines, but the Trump administration didn’t want to purchase it.

“We need vaccines faster. During an emergency you don’t act based on what you hope happens. This was not the way to address it,” he said.

O’Halleran said he is concerned about the deficit, but the alternative to not funding the coronavirus relief package was worse, since it would leave people out on the street and hungry.

“If the coronavirus goes up, we need to address it,” he said.

O’Halleran is particulary concerned about restaurants since 110,000 restaurants across the country have closed down.

One bill that would help enormously, he said, is an infrastructure bill that has been sitting in the Senate for several years. Infrastructure means fixing bridges and roads, and would create a lot of jobs. He said much of the proposed $1.5 trillion would go for projects on rural tribal lands.

Additionally, O’Halleran applauded the recent appointment of Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to Secretary of the Interior.

O’Halleran serves on the agriculture and energy and commerce committees and will work with Haaland on Native American, forest service and national park issues.