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Mescalero Apache Tribe President Gabe Aguilar announced the receipt of $13.5 million to help meet tribal needs during the pandemic.

The funds were provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), passed by Congress on April 22.

The CARES Act set aside $8 billion specifically for tribes. The U.S. Treasury Department released 60 percent of the CRF (coroanavirus relief fund) funding to tribes last week.

Money disturbed to tribal members was used as an economic stimulus.

The amount of funding received by each tribe was determined by tribal population.

“The Tribe is grateful for this money. We closed our casino to stop the spread of the coronavirus in our community and in neighboring communities. Now we have almost zero revenue coming in. We have to keep our community safe until this is over – the need for this money is huge,” said Aguilar.

Mescalero advocated for flexible rules for how the CRF funding was used. However,  the Treasury Department issued strict guidelines governing use of the funds. 

"The tribe has many needs as a result of COVID-19. These funds must be used for COVID related matters as stimulus payments to tribal members," he said.

“I know people will think that we can spend the money on anything we want. I want it to be clear that this money is restricted to COVID-19 needs," he said.

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CRF funds for food, electricity

The Mescalero Apache Tribal Council, using its CRF funds, established an economic support program where each eligible Tribal member over the age of 18, that is expect to receive a $1,000 economic support payment.

“This payment can be used to pay for food, electricity and other needs. Everyone is suffering the economic impacts of COVID-19. Please apply as soon as possible,” he said.

Funds were used for COVID-19 testing, supplies for the health care facility, and face masks for tribal members.

Payments will be made by June 1, 2020. The remaining 40 percent of the tribal funding in the CRF will be allocated depending on the outcome of a lawsuit filed by several tribes against the federal government.

The lawsuit revolved around the issue of whether Alaskan Native Corporations are eligible to receive funding from the CRF or not. The Treasury Department indicated that the remaining funding will be allocated considering factors per the number of individuals employed by each tribe and its annual revenue.

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Mescalero opposes the possible distribution of monies from the CRF to ANCs and previously called for the resignation of the Department of Interior’s Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Tara Sweeney, for her involvement in efforts to include ANCs, stated in release by Aguilar.

For more information contact  Elaina Via with the Mescalero Apache Tribe at 575-464-4494.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact the Coronavirus Hotline at

1-855-600-3453 or visit the NMDOH at cv.nmhealth.org.

Pamela L. Bonner may be reached at Pbonner@RuidosoNews.com, PamBonner on Facebook, @PamelaLBonner1 on Twitter or by phone at 575-202-5555.

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