Tribes welcome infusion of money in infrastructure bill

FELICIA FONSECA Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Tribes welcomed an infusion of money in the massive infrastructure bill to expand broadband coverage, fix roads and address water and sanitation needs, but they say real change will come only with sustained investment.

President Joe Biden signed the $1.2 trillion deal earlier this week that includes about $11 billion in benefits for Indian Country, according to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. About one-third of that, $3.5 billion, will go to the Indian Health Service, the federal agency tasked with providing health care for more than 2 million Native American and Alaska Natives.

The funding is enough to address more than 1,560 projects on the agency’s list of water and sanitation deficiencies in 12 regions, estimated to cost nearly $2.6 billion. Projects in Alaska and the Southwest region that covers the Navajo Nation — where many tribal members live without running water and indoor plumbing — collectively have the largest price tags.

“In these and several other tribal communities, sanitation and clean water systems would never be built because the annual appropriations were insufficient to cover all the deficiencies,” the National Indian Health Board said Wednesday.

Indian Health Service spokeswoman Jennifer Buschick said the

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