Council approves direct payments from CARES fund

WINDOW ROCK

With any luck, the Navajo people and their 110 chapters might soon be eligible for direct financial relief from the remaining pot of $176 million in CARES Act money. That is, if President Jonathan Nez signs two bills that were passed by the Navajo Nation Council last Friday.

As of Sept. 21, $538 million of the $714 million Navajo CARES Act funds had been appropriated, with only $30 million spent and $12 million encumbered, leaving $176 million yet to be allocated.

Legislation No. 0201-20, sponsored by Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton (passed 21-0), adds $49 million to the CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Expenditure Plan that was adopted in Resolution CJY-67-20 and originally established with only $1,000.

The purpose of the Charles-Newton’s legislation is to provide emergency financial assistance, necessary to combat the effects of COVID-19 and mitigate the spread of the virus, to Navajo tribal members. “This money goes directly to the people,” said Charles-Newton. “We are all aware that our people are in a financial crisis and they need help. COVID-19 has affected every single Navajo person living on and off the reservation.”

No. 197-20, sponsored by Delegate Mark Freeland (passed 21-0), established the CARES Fund Chapter Distribution Expenditure Plan, which allocates $90 million to all chapters under the 50-50 formula (half divided equally among the chapters and half based on population), for COVID-19 humanitarian relief and response efforts.

The bill also includes $20 million for the controller’s office to handle disbursement of the funds through an online portal, $2 million to the Division of Community Development to help administer the funds, and $15 million for telecommunications and internet connectivity for chapters, for a total of $127 million.

$1,500 for adults, $500 for minors

The $49 million approved by Council in No. 0201-20 would be available to all 327,726 Navajo enrolled tribal members (CIB required) on and off the reservation through an application process that would be managed through the controller’s office.

Source: The Navajo Times