O’Halleran, Young Re-Introduce Legislation to Fund Sanitation Projects in Tribal Communities

March 16, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) and Congressman Don Young (AK-AL) introduced legislation to allocate $2.6 billion in funding to the Indian Health Service (IHS) Sanitation Facilities Construction Program to construct and improve multiple critical sanitation projects across Indian Country.

“A lack of funding for urgently-needed sanitation projects on tribal lands has left far too many families without access to safe water and sanitation systems during one of the most acute public health crises of our lifetimes,” said Congressman O’Halleran. “As we continue to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, we must ensure that the public health needs of long-overlooked tribal communities are not left on the backburner.” 

The bipartisan bill updates legislation introduced by O’Halleran and Young in the 116th Congress to address the Indian Health Service’s updated 2019 Sanitation Facilities Deficiency List—which details sanitation deficiency levels for tribal homes and communities nationwide—by setting aside $2.6 billion in funding for the planning, design, construction, modernization, improvement, and renovation of water, sewer, and solid waste sanitation facilities.

"Safe, clean water and sewer infrastructure are essential to protecting public health, particularly as we continue working to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic," said Congressman Don Young, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. "Sadly, too many of our Native villages possess water infrastructure and sewage systems that are aging or in various states of disrepair; many even still rely on unsafe systems like honey buckets. As we learned earlier this year with the devastating situation in Tuluksak, reliable water infrastructure is critical to the health and well-being of Alaska Native families; Congress should be making crucial investments in long-term infrastructure projects in Native communities across the country. I am proud to partner with my friend Congressman Tom O'Halleran on this critical legislation to provide funding to address deficient infrastructure in Native communities in Alaska and across the country. I will continue working to ensure access to safe water in rural and urban areas alike so that Alaska's families can remain healthy and thrive."

Over the past year, tribal communities have experienced some of the highest per capita COVID-19 infection rates in the country– including the Navajo Nation, which became the global hot spot for the virus in May 2020. It is estimated that over 100,000 homes on tribal lands lack access to running water and adequate sanitation infrastructure. On the Navajo Nation—much of which exists in Arizona’s First District—roughly 30 percent of the population lacks access to running water at all.

Full text of the legislation is available HERE.

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