NAVAJO NATION — The Navajo Nation will receive nearly $4 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to enhance education and workforce training for Navajo youth.
The funding, a 22 percent chunk of the total $17.8 million made available to American Indian youths through President Barack Obama's stimulus package, is the largest allocation for any tribe or American Indian program in the country.
The remaining $13.8 million is divided among 133 other tribes, schools and programs benefiting American Indian youth.
"The Navajo Nation is getting a big chunk," said Michael Wero, spokesman for the Nation's Washington, D.C., office. "The money is not just going to tribes, but to programs in urban settings that benefit Native Americans."
The labor department allocated the funds through its Workforce Investment Act Indian and Native Supplemental Youth Service Program.
Navajo funds will be used to provide education or employment training for youths ages 14 to 21, said a staff assistant in the Navajo Nation Department of Workforce Development who refused to provide his name.
"We're just now putting the plan together," he said. "In that plan, we will decide how the funds will be used and what services will be provided."
The plan likely will call for funding for work programs, classroom training and basic education, he said.
According to the department's Web site, 95 percent of Navajo youth targeted by the program are affected by poverty or low incomes. The program also accepts pregnant youths or young parents, runaways, homeless youths, offenders or those who are deficient in basic literary skills.
The program provides year-round employment and training programs.
The second largest chunk of federal funding, $2.4 million, went to a Hawaii-based social and economic self-sufficiency program, according to Department of Labor data.
Other New Mexico and Four Corners area tribes and programs also will receive money from the federal allocation.
New Mexico tribes and pueblos, excluding the Navajo Nation, will pull $745,000 from the fund, including $167,000 for the Pueblo of Zuni and more than $100,000 for Navajo school boards.
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe in Colorado will receive nearly $14,000, and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is allotted $29,000.
The Ute Indian Tribe in Utah will receive almost $78,000.
Additional Navajo funds may be available through the Workforce Investment Act, Wero said. Those funds would be distributed to programs operated through the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
"We don't know what those are yet," Wero said of the programs. "The Department of Labor is going to send money through that stream, but hasn't released the amounts yet. We do know those funds are going to the youth, to youth programs."