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Proposal to financially help Navajo Nation membership under review

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — The Navajo Nation Council resolution that proposes providing financial assistance to enrolled tribal members affected by the coronavirus pandemic has been sent to the president's office.

The resolution, which is identified as CS-74-20, was submitted on Sept. 30. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez is continuing to review the document, according to his office.

More:President Nez signs continuing resolution to keep Navajo government operating

He has 10 calendar days to sign, veto or use his line-item authority on the proposal.

On Sept. 24, the council approved using approximately $49.4 million from the federal coronavirus relief bill to fund the "hardship assistance expenditure plan," which is a program designed to help enrolled tribal members with expenses or financial burdens incurred since March 1 due to the pandemic.

Community members wait to receive food and supplies donated to the Navajo Nation from various entities to address the coronavirus crisis on the reservation. The items were distributed by the tribe's Office of the President and Vice President on June 12, 2020 at the Northern Navajo Nation Fairgrounds in Shiprock.

Under the proposal, an individual who was over the age of 18 as of March 1 could be eligible for up to $1,500 while a person under 18 as of March 1 could be eligible for up to $500 and their place of residence can be either on or away from the reservation.

Details about how to apply have not been released yet, but a Sept. 29 press release from the Office of the Speaker states that the council "required all applicants to demonstrate" tribal enrollment, and a person's income is not a basis for eligibility.

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"Once the president acts on council's resolution, the Office of the Controller and the Navajo Nation Council will provide public announcements of the hardship assistance application opening and related information," the release states.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez gives a fist bump on June 12, 2020 during a food distribution event by his office in Shiprock.

Delegate Eugena Charles-Newton sponsored the bill, which was passed by the council on Sept. 24 in a vote of 21 in favor and one opposed.

She said in an Oct. 1 telephone interview that delegates have heard stories about how the pandemic has financially affected tribal members on the Navajo Nation and living around the world due to employment or military service.

Charles-Newton, who represents Shiprock Chapter, heard from parents who are struggling to pay for better internet services, so their children can learn online or are paying higher electric bills because their families are following public health orders to stay home.

More:Event helps boost census participation on Navajo Nation

"I just hope that he (Nez) does sign it and that we can get relief out to the Navajo people," Charles-Newton said.

This is the latest amount to be proposed for allocation from the approximately $714 million the tribe received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

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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