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Remarks by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at the Economic Development Administration's (EDA) Indigenous Communities Webinar


Good afternoon, everyone! And thank you for participating in today’s webinar.

While today’s event is virtual, I hope that we can host future events like this one in person.

It is my absolute privilege to serve as Deputy Secretary of Commerce and to be part of the Biden-Harris Administration that is not only committed to building back better, but to doing so in a more equitable way.

In the last eighteen months, COVID-19 has impacted every community in America. We have seen firsthand how our families, our businesses, and our communities have been devastated by this unprecedented pandemic, which also further exposed deep disparities in our country.

Our very own U.S. Census Bureau, has found that nearly ten percent of Americans lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 also exacerbated the unemployment rate for Native Americans and exposed how wide the digital divide truly is for America’s indigenous communities.

This has caused a ripple effect within Native-American communities and households.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 19 percent of Native-American households did not have enough food for their entire family.

And the rate of Native-American households unable to pay their monthly rent is also 19 percent. This is unacceptable.

We all agree that we can’t go back to the way things were before. This is the moment to reimagine and build a new American economy. One that creates millions of good-paying jobs and is more just and sustainable.

In March, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan allocating $3 billion dollars to the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, or EDA, to specifically assist communities across the country in their efforts to build back better.

This investment marks the largest investment in America’s economic development from the Department of Commerce in decades and has the ability to significantly transform local and regional economies.

EDA, which has been making investments into economically distressed regions based on locally-driven strategies for over fifty years, immediately got to work and updated its investment priorities, with an increased emphasis on equity.

And last month, Secretary Raimondo announced a series of programs to equitably invest this $3 billion in communities across the nation.

The six EDA American Rescue Plan programs we’ll outline for you today focus on bolstering a variety of areas, including entrepreneurship, workforce development, travel and tourism, and other key sectors impacted by the pandemic.

They are designed to assist those traditionally underserved, including women, people of color, and tribal and indigenous communities.

Under the American Rescue Plan, EDA will make grants to state and local governmental entities, institutions of higher education, not-for-profit entities, unions, and Tribes.

One of our programs allocates $100 million specifically for Indigenous communities.

Applications will be accepted for infrastructure projects, such as broadband, energy, road, water and wastewater management, vocational and higher education facilities, and community health facilities.

Projects can also include non-construction projects to provide technical assistance to support business development, entrepreneurship assistance, economic development planning, rural prosperity, and workforce training in Indigenous communities.

And of course, Indigenous communities are also eligible under all of EDA’s other programs.

At Commerce, we also recently announced nearly $1 billion in grants to expand broadband to unserved and underserved tribal lands.

These grants are part of our Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program and will help your communities participate more fully in today’s modern economy.

The grants are flexible and cover a range of issues − from broadband deployment to digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth and distance learning.

Our team at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA, will ensure the funds are distributed equitably so that no tribe is left out. 

NTIA is currently accepting application through September 1, 2021. I strongly encourage you to visit NTIA’s Broadband USA webpage and to attend one of the upcoming webinars on that program offered by NTIA later this week on August 11 and 12, and next week on August 23 and 24.

Today’s webinar will provide key information to those who have not engaged frequently with EDA, as well as those who may be more familiar with our programs.

At the Department of Commerce, we are helping to create a future that invests in our communities and for future generations.

We ask that you help us spread the word and encourage eligible applicants in your communities to visit EDA.gov and follow us closely on social media for the latest news.

With your support, these programs will help create transformational change in communities across the country.

We hope that today’s webinar provides you with the information you need to get started. EDA is ready to assist as you continue with the grant process.

And with that, let’s begin!