Tribal communities in Louisiana have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis. Like other localities and businesses, Native American tribes have had to work quickly to figure out how to keep our communities safe, pivoting quickly to serve our members as best as we can, often largely on our own and with little guidance.

For the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, this has meant buying our own personal protective equipment to keep employees safe. We’ve sent meals to tribal elders to ensure they would be able to eat and remain healthy without having to go to grocery stores or high-risk areas.

We’ve opened and closed our businesses and government offices multiple times to keep everyone safe, including voluntarily closing our casino, our primary revenue engine, for months to protect public health despite not being required to do so.

As one of many Native American tribal leaders in this country, it is our job to step up and save lives. That job will be a lot easier with a national plan in place and an example of leadership in the White House that projects the readiness and willingness required to move beyond this pandemic. The newly released Biden American Rescue Plan will provide leaders in urban, rural and tribal communities throughout Louisiana and the country with the aid necessary to protect their communities.

The plan includes $130 billion to help our students get back to school. This is of the utmost importance, because it's a leader's responsibility to ensure that the next generation is tended to and prepared for their futures no matter the situation at hand.

The plan also includes $350 billion in aid to state, local and tribal governments to ensure that the police officers, health providers, trash collectors and other essential workers that keep our communities moving are protected from layoffs and the worst of the economic impacts of this pandemic.

We must keep our essential workers employed and our students learning as we race to vaccinate the American public. The Biden plan prioritizes the race for vaccinations, with $160 billion to fund a national vaccination program. I applaud this effort.

An unprecedented pandemic and economic crisis requires a plan to not only move on, but to move forward. The Biden American Rescue Plan is an investment in communities throughout America at a time when we need help the most.

Our elected representatives in Washington should support this plan with full bipartisan support. Our communities hurt and we cannot continue to wait for help.

MARSHALL PIERITE

chair, Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana

Marksville