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Commerce Commits to Work and Coordinate with Tribes to Support Economic Growth at the White House Tribal Nations Summit

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo addressed Tribal leaders at the 2023 White House Tribal Nations Summit, a two-day event reflecting the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to strengthening Nation-to-Nation relationships. Following President Biden’s remarks on the Summit’s opening day, Secretary Raimondo reiterated the Department’s commitment to working and coordinating with Tribal Nations to ensure Tribal communities have the needed resources for economic growth. “We’re committed. This is just the beginning of a lot more to come. Long-term sustained changes to make investments in your communities to ensure that Tribal communities, Tribal businesses, and Tribal workers are equipped for success and share in the economic opportunity,” said Secretary Raimondo.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, the Commerce Department has unprecedented money and resources to invest in communities nationwide – including in infrastructure, job training, broadband access, and regional economies. “Our mission at the Commerce Department is to do just that – to create the conditions for economic growth and prosperity for all communities and for all people,” said Secretary Raimondo. “We are unbelievably serious throughout the government under the President’s leadership and specifically in the Commerce Department to be intentional as we invest this money to include Tribes in our design work to make sure that your needs and priorities are addressed.”

To date, the Department of Commerce has awarded nearly $2 billion to more than 220 tribal entities to expand high-speed internet access, including network deployment and digital skills, to close the digital divide. In her remarks, the Secretary reiterated an announcement in July that another $1 billion in funds are available for that program.

Secretary Raimondo stated that the Commerce Department is focused on making transformational investments in local economies to create quality jobs, help small businesses, and expand innovation. She acknowledged that Tribes have been left to grapple with economic challenges on their own in the past. “Frankly, and for far too long, the federal government has left tribal communities on your own and left to struggle in the face of economic challenges.” To increase support for Tribal Nations, the Department created The Good Jobs Challenge, putting half a billion dollars into job training. Through this program, Lakota Funds in South Dakota was awarded $5 million to create a construction trades training program for residents of nine tribal reservations. “What they’re doing there is training people to get jobs and, in the process, addressing the shortage of housing inventory that exists in the area,” said Secretary Raimondo.

The Department also established a $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Economic Development Challenge, highlighting the Department’s efforts to put the needs of Tribes front and center. The Secretary announced that the Mountain Plains Regional Community Development Financial Institutions Fund Coalition, led by the Four Bands Community Fund, is receiving $45 million to grow the indigenous finance sector and expand economic opportunity in Tribal communities in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Additionally, Secretary Raimondo announced the Economic Development Administration’s establishment of a first-of-its-kind $100 million program to support tribal governments and indigenous communities.

The Secretary emphasized the Commerce Department’s efforts to improve tribal consultation and engagement and highlighted the Department’s National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) work in the past year to build climate-ready communities. NOAA established a $400 million tribal set aside from the Inflation Reduction Act funds for tribal priorities, including fish passage, fish hatcheries, and capacity building. She noted that in early December, the Department announced the availability of $106 million in funding through the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund to support the efforts by States and Tribes to protect and conserve salmon and steelhead populations and their habitats. “This has to be continuous and sustainable,” said Secretary Raimondo. “Every Tribal leader I’ve ever spoken to on this topic, and I have personally spoken to many folks about preserving a culture, preserving a way of life, and preserving it for the next generation. So, it’s more than just fishing for today, for sustenance. It’s about sustainment over the long run.”

Watch Secretary Gina Raimondo’s remarks at the 2023 White House Tribal Nations Summit.