FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — As the coronavirus ripped through the Navajo Nation, it spotlighted longstanding inequities on the reservation where thousands of tribal members travel long distances for medical care, internet service is spotty at best and many homes lack electricity and even running water.
Now, the tribe, facing severe issues and fractured priorities, must decide how to spend more than $714 million in federal virus relief money. And they must do it quickly to meet a deadline that also requires state and local governments to spend the money on emergency needs.
The task is daunting on the 27,000-square-mile reservation that stretches across northeastern Arizona and into New Mexico and Utah. Delivering drinking water, building adequate housing and getting residents online would take more money than the government made available and more time than allotted.
“It’s going to come down to what projects will meet the timelines,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty said. “It’s not going to be what we would want to spend every dime on, just what we can get on the ground to expend by Dec. 30.”