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Remarks by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) 78th Annual Convention


Hello everyone!

Thank you, Aaron, for that kind introduction, and thank you, Fawn, for your remarkable leadership. 

It’s great to be here with you all at the 78th National Congress of Indian Americans.

As we recover from the pandemic, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to building back a better, more equitable economy where no one is left behind.

As part of that agenda, the Department of Commerce is prioritizing economic growth and opportunity for Native Americans.

It starts with closing the digital divide.

In today’s economy, broadband and high-speed internet isn’t a luxury – it’s essential to everyday life.

Yet, too often tribal lands lack basic cell service. And only half of tribal residents have fixed-home internet service.

In June, I joined Vice President Harris and Secretary Haaland to announce the Commerce Department’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.

It will provide nearly $1 billion in grants to expand broadband to unserved and underserved tribal lands.

And it will bring life-saving technologies, economic opportunities, remote learning, and countless other benefits to your communities.

We’ve been thrilled by the response from Tribal communities!

We received nearly 300 applications from across the country − from large infrastructure projects to small internet-adoption programs.  

So far, the application requests amount to more than $5 billion in funds – over five times the amount appropriated by Congress for this program.

That’s a very strong signal of intense demand, and need, for broadband investments in Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.

I want to thank everyone for applying and for your commitment to supporting the broadband needs of your communities.

Our National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA, is starting the review process to ensure that applications demonstrating the greatest need are funded. 

If there is any information missing in your applications, my team at NTIA will contact you directly − so please keep an eye out for communications from them.

In the interim, please don’t hesitate to submit questions to [email protected].

In addition to the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, our Economic Development Administration, or EDA, received $3 billion from the American Rescue Plan for six programs supporting travel and tourism, infrastructure, job training, entrepreneurship and more.

Tribes are eligible for all six programs, but especially the Indigenous Communities Program, designed specifically for economic development in Tribal communities.
The program allocates $100 million to fund a wide range of projects to meet the unique needs of each indigenous community.  

Please go to www.eda.gov/ARPA for more information about this program.

On top of these grants, we’re hopeful that Congress will pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, which will provide $65 billion for broadband deployment, digital inclusion, and affordable service.

It also includes an additional $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program to get affordable, high-speed internet to our underserved communities.

The Department of Commerce is committed to working with Tribal governments to get you the broadband you need to participate in the 21st century economy. 

Because we understand that our economy cannot fully recover from this pandemic, until every American can fully participate.

Thank you again and enjoy the rest of your conference!

And with that I’ll turn it over to Aaron.