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Navajo Nation eyes spending remaining CARES Act dollars

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Tonya Fusion, construction labor supervisor for Nations Gas Technologies Inc., refills a tank with propane during a free event to provide the service on May 8 in Sanostee.

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation officials continue to work on allocating the $716 million received from the federal coronavirus relief bill.

The tribe received its first payment from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in May. Since then officials have approved using $538 million to help mitigate the economic and social impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Delegate Kee Allen Begay Jr. is sponsoring Legislation No. 0209-20 and introduced it last week. It has yet to undergo review and consideration by members of the Navajo Nation Council.

The bill included using approximately $30 million to provide emergency financial assistance to tribal members to buy personal protective equipment and help pay past due utility bills, rent, mortgages, expenses related to isolation, livestock and education related expenses and other financial burdens.

Establishing broadband and telecommunication services will receive an additional boost of $15.4 million 

Nations Gas Technologies Inc. employees unload, refill and reload propane tanks on May 8 in Sanostee. The business is included in the latest tribal legislation to distribute money from the federal coronavirus aid bill.

Where allocation is going

Navajo Nation Shopping Centers Inc. would receive $4 million to improve safety measures against COVID-19 at the 10 shopping centers operated by the enterprise.

The Department of Diné Education would receive $35 million to provide emergency relief and assistance to undergraduate and graduate students, $4.3 million for Navajo Head Start to increase safety at locations, and $3 million for technological services and security.

The Division of Social Services would receive $5 million to start an assistance program to help eligible students in buying school supplies, clothing and other essential items.

The division would receive an additional $10 million to provide financial assistance to vulnerable elders and individuals with developmental delays and disabilities. The assistance would help them buy personal protective equipment and help them pay for expenses caused by the pandemic.

The division is also seeking $5 million to help staff transition to work remotely.

The Division of Public Service would receive $602,206 to add internet connectivity to police, fire, emergency medical services and emergency management vehicles.

The Community Housing and Infrastructure Department would receive $25 million for an initiative to provide mobile or modular homes to families in need of housing improvement.

The Division of Community Development would receive $5 million to assist the 110 chapters in addressing solid waste disposal.

The Office of the Controller is seeking $10 million to hire additional staff and to pay for costs associated with the increased workload due to processing the CARES Act funding. The Office of Management and Budget faces similar issues and is seeking $653,000 for resources and costs.

Money eyed for solar, propane

Earlier in the month, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez used the line-item veto on the last council resolution that divvied money from the federal coronavirus relief bill.

Nez eliminated funding to Native Renewables, a nonprofit that installs solar units and refrigerators in homes on the reservation.

The latest bill has $15 million allocated to Native Renewables to place solar units in homes that lack electricity. A stipulation in the bill calls for at least $5 million be used for solar projects in the former Bennett Freeze Area in Arizona.

Also proposed is providing $7.4 million to Nations Gas Technologies Inc., a Navajo, N.M. based business that provides propane and natural gas services. The business would use the amount to provide propane and natural gas to homes in preparation for the winter.  

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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