ALBUQUERQUE – The Navajo Nation has received $600 million from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) and the Navajo Nation Council is collecting public comments to determine the best ways to spend the money.
The Council has set up committees and ways for the Navajo people to send written comments to offer suggestions for ways the money can be put to use.
The CARES Act passed the US Congress and was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27. The $2 Trillion bill is meant to address the economic down turn caused the coronavirus. A total of $8 billion was set aside for Native American tribes.
Last month, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a television interview that he wants the money to be used to create a water system for the 27,000 square mile reservation where 30 percent of the residents do not have running water or electricity.
VIDEO: SPEAKER RECOGNIZES FEDERAL CARES ACT SUPPORT FOR TRIBAL NATIONS (5/5/20)
24th Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon recognizes Congressional leaders President Trump for passing CARES Act funding for Tribal nations. Speaker Damon also thanks President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer for their front-line efforts in preventing the spread of COVID-19. #ThankYou #Ahéhee
Navajo Nation Council: CARES Act funding for Tribal nations
He urged the council to spend money on “infrastructure projects to get the Navajo people up to the rest of the country,” with water supplies.
Nez also suggested that funds be spent to provide face masks and other items to protect citizens from the coronavirus along with food and “hazard pay for workers” who have been fighting the epidemic on the Navajo Nation.
The Navajo Nation Council is asking people to send in their recommendations in writing or on social media, said Byron Shorty, Communications Director for the Office of the Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council.
“Now that the federal relief funding has been received by the Nation, the Budget and Finance Committee will consider the initial legislation that outlines how the $600 million will begin to reach the programs and communities across the Navajo Nation,” Shorty wrote in a press release from the Speaker’s office.
The legislation will then be considered by a 24-member Naabik’yati (Discussion) Committee and by the entire Navajo Nation Council, he said.
There also will be virtual public forums on line to collect public input for the Navajo Nation Coronavirus Relief Fund Management Plan.
Guidelines for spending the money were established by the federal government’s Treasury Department and by the Navajo Nation code of laws.
“Water projects have already been identified in a five-year master plan,” said Shorty in a telephone interview. “There are existing projects that have not already been funded. The Navajo Nation Council is aware of spending money for water. They have not put the legislation forward yet. It’s in the legislative process.”