WASHINGTON— In addition to news already covered during the previous week, each Sunday Native News Online provides an overview of activity in Washington, D.C. that impacts Indian Country during the past week. The U.S. Senate is out of session until Sept. 13. The Federal Communications Commission was busy this week with announcements. Read other briefs:

FCC Announces New Covid-19 Telehealth Program Awards to Health Care Providers

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved an initial set of applications for funding commitments for Round 2 of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program. The FCC’s Covid-19 Telehealth Program supports the efforts of health care providers to continue serving their patients by providing reimbursement for telecommunications services, information services, and connected devices necessary to enable telehealth during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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Below is a list of health care providers that were approved for that impact Indian Country:

  • The South East Alaska Regional Health Consortium in Juneau, Alaska was awarded $804,092 for equipment, including telemedicine carts, web services, tablets and videoconferencing software, to create a telehealth program that will provide care to communities spanning an archipelago of more than 375 islands, many accessible only by plane or boat, and will maximize patient access while minimizing in-person contact and risk of virus transmission.
  • Norton Sound Health Corporation in Nome, Alaska was awarded $416,250 for home health care kits and mobile devices to provide enhanced remote care management to address the barriers of providing health care services to patients remotely.
  • Tuba City Regional Health Care in Tuba City, Arizona was awarded $266,946 to purchase internet service, a mobile telehealth clinic, telemedicine carts, and cell phones to bring health care to and connect patients from the Navajo Nation in remote locations – who may lack access to transportation, internet connectivity, or phone service – with primary care and specialty providers.
  • University of Montana College of Health in Missoula, Montana was awarded $679,441 in order to purchase telemedicine kits to enable critical, remote telehealth services and to provide internet connected devices for remote patient monitoring services during the pandemic for underserved, rural, and tribal populations within the state.
  • Nebraska Urban Indian Health Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska was awarded $190,875 for Covid-19 response kits, tablets, broadband services, and connected devices to ensure patients, including tribal communities, have access to telehealth services and care during the pandemic.

For additional information on the FCC’s Covid-19 Telehealth program, visit: https://www.usac.org/about/covid-19-telehealth-program/.

Tribal Wildlife Corridors Act Bolsters Wildlife Conservation on Tribal Lands

A new bill, the Tribal Wildlife Corridors Act, has been introduced by Rep. Rube Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) that would fund critical wildlife migration pathways on tribal lands, ensuring tribes have resources to implement conservation measures that protect fish and wildlife and boost biodiversity. 

Wildlife corridors are essential to maintaining healthy wildlife populations, allowing animals to migrate and move safely through the United States.

“Wildlife do not recognize the jurisdictional boundaries between tribal, federal, state and private lands,” Elveda Martinez, president of the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society said. “The Tribal Wildlife Corridors Act not only acknowledges tribal sovereignty and the wildlife conservation expertise of tribes but will also encourage cross-jurisdictional collaboration to ensure the health and movement of wildlife populations.”

Visit the National Wildlife Federation Media Center at NWF.org/News.

FCC Grants Additional 2.5 GHz Spectrum Licenses for Wireless Services in Alaska Native Communities

The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has granted an additional six additional spectrum licenses to tribal entities in Alaska that filed applications during the 2.5 GHz band Rural Tribal Priority Window. The licenses granted today will afford these rural Alaska Native communities the opportunity to deploy 5G and other advanced wireless services that are a vital part of staying connected in this digital age.

“No matter who you are or where you live you need access to modern communications to have a fair shot at 21st century success.  Today’s action takes another step in helping to bring that access to more Alaska Native communities, connecting them to the health, education, business, entertainment, and other resources available in the digital age,” FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said. 

To date, the agency has granted 270 licenses to Tribal entities which provide for exclusive use of up to 117.5 megahertz of this valuable mid-band spectrum.  FCC staff continue to review and process the applications that were filed in the Rural Tribal Priority Window.   More information regarding the window can be found at www.fcc.gov/rural-tribal-window-updates.

Deadline for Applications for the Native Communications Task Force Extended

The Federal Communications Commission’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy have extended the deadline for Tribal applications in order to fill four vacancies still left on the task force. 

Applications are now due September 27, 2021. The current term for the task force has also been extended by Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel to October 24, 2022. 

The purpose of this task force is to make recommendations to the Commission on communication-related issues that may affect Tribal interests. One of these issues include the availability of communications facilities and broadband services on Tribal lands. 

As stated in the Public Notice, applications must be in accordance with the following guidelines:

  • All applicants must be elected leaders from federally recognized Tribal governments or governmental entities or designated employees with authority to act on the leaders’ behalf. 
  • In the case of a person seeking to serve as a “designated employee,” the application must also identify by name and position the elected Tribal leader on whose behalf the employee would be acting and must include a letter from that leader designating the applicant to represent them on the Task Force.  
  • The designated employee’s experience and qualifications should be commensurate with the functions of the Task Force, and not ministerial.

Applications must also include:

  • Name and position of the applicant with respect to a Tribal government 
  • Telephone number; mailing address and/or email address; and 
  • Brief description of the nominee’s area(s) of expertise and qualifications to serve on the Task Force
Rep. Sharice Davids – Guest Commentary Calls for Passage of the Infrastructure Bill

Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS), a tribal citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation, wrote a guest commentary for The Kansas City Star, Bipartisan infrastructure deal can bring us out of the Eisenhower era, that was published on August 22 to make a strong case for approval of the infrastructure.

Davids, who along with Deb Haaland, now secretary of the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, became the first American Indian women elected to Congress when they won their respective elections on November 2018, cites President Dwight Eisenhower’s commitment back in the 1950s to create infrastructure across America.

She makes the case that America is stuck in the Eisenhower era.

“Just a few miles from the recognition of President Eisenhower, creator of the interstate highway system and champion of infrastructure, we see crumbling bridges and congestion. It’s clear that the Eisenhower era isn’t cutting it anymore,” Davids writes.

Davids contends it will take a bipartisan effort to get past the Eisenhower era:

“This bill is large — but so is the problem. The last time we saw this level of investment in America’s infrastructure was when Eisenhower recognized an opportunity to rebuild the economy and create jobs through infrastructure projects. His “Grand Plan” also took compromise to become reality, but it proved him right.”

Neely Bardwell (descendant of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians)a Michigan State University student who is interning with Native News Online, contributed to these briefs.

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