FARMINGTON — A bill before the Navajo Nation Council is attempting to address the need for eyeglasses for young and older Navajos.
The legislation requests $1 million in supplemental funding from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance to purchase eyeglasses for Navajo youth enrolled in Head Start through 12th grade and Navajos who are 55 years old and older.
As of July 14, the balance of the UUFB is at $9.6 million.
Delegates Charles Damon II and Edmund Yazzie are sponsoring the bill. Neither could not be reached for comment.
According to the bill, the program would provide single vision or bifocal lenses and frames to 1,818 youth and 1,818 older adults from each of the tribe's five agencies. If passed, the bill would provide eyeglasses to 18,180 people.
Bishop Optical, based in Gallup, would provide the eyeglass frames and lenses.
Doug Bishop, the store's owner, said this is a way to provide individuals with glasses, especially those who do not qualify for assistance programs like New Mexico Medicaid and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.
"This is for people who fall through the cracks," Bishop said.
Throughout the years, he said, the store has received dozens of letters from people who are grateful for receiving eyewear.
"I've had moms crying because their kids never had glasses before," Bishop said, adding that when students can see clearly, their academic performance improves and their interest in education increases.
According to the proposal summary attached to the legislation, Bishop Optical would have its mobile unit visit sites throughout the Navajo Nation to accept orders and then deliver the completed eyewear.
The store would be responsible for its travel expense and would not charge the tribe. The $1 million would cover the cost of the eyewear, according to the bill.
The legislation became eligible for committee action on Tuesday and was assigned to the Health, Education and Human Services; Budget and Finance; and Naa'bik'íyáti' committees and the council, where final authority rests.
A similar project was offered in 2009 through a collaboration between Bishop Optical, then-Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan and the Office of Diné Youth. That effort provided 10,000 eyeglasses to Navajo youth.Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.