WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) announced that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Wireline Competition Bureau approved $954,990 to the Navajo Nation Department of Health for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program funded 56 health care providers in 23 states for a total of $24.9 million in funding.
The funding will be used to provide home healthcare and remote monitoring services throughout Navajo Nation to patients who are isolated and under shelter-in-place orders, including low-income, elderly, vulnerable, and high-risk patients. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the vital importance of affordable broadband services to Tribal communities for health care, distance learning, and teleworking. Earlier this year, Senators Udall and Heinrich introduced the Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act to accelerate the deployment of broadband services to Native communities and bridge the digital divide facing Native communities.
“Tribal communities, and other rural populations in New Mexico, have suffered tremendously because of the COVID-19 pandemic and our rural health care providers and other frontline workers continue to act as the lifelines for Tribal, rural, and high-risk patients,” said Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “This grant is a step in the right direction, but I will be fighting to secure further telehealth resources and expand broadband access throughout the Navajo Nation and Indian Country so that Native communities have access to quality health care services. As we return to Washington, I am focusing my energy in the Senate to fight for Tribal communities and New Mexico communities to have greater access to broadband services to minimize public health disparities.”
“The Navajo Nation is experiencing severe and disproportionate outbreaks of the coronavirus,” said Heinrich. “We must do everything we can to bring lifesaving health care to those who need it, particularly those living in remote reservation communities. I’m proud to support this critical funding from the CARES Act that will allow health care providers to treat hard-to-reach patients on the Navajo Nation. As Indian Country continues to face immense challenges confronting this pandemic, I remain committed to fighting for all the funding and resources that tribes need to support a public health response that is rooted in science and a strong long-term recovery.”