WATCH: Mark Kelly Caps Off Virtual Tour in Roundtable with Seniors from Arizona Tribal Communities
On Friday, Mark Kelly capped off his “Fighting for Arizona Seniors” virtual tour joined by Gila River, Tohono O’odham, and Navajo Nation tribal members for a roundtable discussion about the issues facing seniors living in tribal communities. The group shared their concerns about protecting Medicare and Social Security, ensuring that elders have access to long-term health care, and reinstating vital services that were cut due to decreased federal funding.
They also discussed inequities in tribal communities that have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the need to improve infrastructure and access to water for people in tribal communities.
Watch full video HERE.
Here are some highlights:
On threats to Social Security and Medicare
MARK KELLY [25:12]: I understand the concerns about Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits being at risk. […] If given the opportunity to serve in the United States Senate, I will be fighting for Social Security and Medicare to make sure that these benefits are not eliminated or reduced. These are earned benefits that seniors rely on across our country and they shouldn’t be messed with. I’ll be there to fight for that.
LINDA ANDREWS, GILA RIVER INDIAN COMMUNITY [22:38]: I think the biggest issue that we faced in the last couple of years before COVID hit was the grandparents caring for grandchildren. That takes a whole different way of looking at ALTCS [Arizona Long Term Care Assistance System] assistance for those who may need it, for Social Security, because for some of the elders that there’s support for the children also. So that’s going to make a big impact if Social Security goes away.
On funding for tribal communities
MARK KELLY [1:17]: The federal government largely failed Arizona’s tribal communities during this pandemic. The United States Senate tried to pass a COVID relief bill, and the first versions of this did not have a dime in it for tribal governments. […] And then when they did pass funding for tribal governments, the administration held that money up so they could give some for-profit corporations in Alaska some of this money. And it was just wrong.
SHEILA BEDONI, NAVAJO NATION [28:20]: From Washington, the number one thing we need help with is more funding. The past two years, I know the CHR (Community Health Representative) program and health education program budgets were zeroed out. […] There’s a lot of services that were eliminated due to limited funding. And like I mentioned earlier, I would say that there should be some type of funding for nursing homes.
On improving infrastructure in tribal communities
MARK KELLY [19:21]: This pandemic has highlighted a lot of inequities in our health care system but also services and infrastructure, like the ability to deliver water. And clearly, we need a large federal infrastructure plan which includes upgrading infrastructure in tribal communities.
SHEILA BEDONI, NAVAJO NATION [30:02]: Everybody is looking for water on the reservation. The windmills are broken — they all need to be repaired. There’s a lot of people that are in line at NTUA (Navajo Tribal Utility Authority), but they have to pay and some of them are driving an hour away from their home to get water. This is water not only for the household but for their livestock as well. And because of the drought, the dirt roads are forming potholes, and the roads are really, really bad everywhere.
Watch the full video HERE.