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NTEC's annual funding program shifts focus to aid COVID-19 response in communities

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Transitional Energy Company shifted the focus of its Community Benefit Fund this year to financially help 29 projects that address the coronavirus in communities on or near the Navajo Nation.

The Community Benefit Fund is a program designed to help projects implemented by nonprofit organizations, chapter governments and approved education or community-based entities. This year's total amount awarded was $213,000.

"When COVID-19 began spreading on the Navajo Nation, NTEC immediately took action to provide assistance to the chapters and organizations that help Navajo people," NTEC CEO Clark Moseley said in a press release. "Converting the CBF to focus on providing emergency response grants is one of the many actions NTEC has taken to help Navajo communities impacted by coronavirus."

Cortasha Upshaw, community affairs coordinator with NTEC, said she heard chapter officials make comments during meetings about financial challenges the governments were facing due to the sudden government shutdown over the new virus.

She added that nonprofits were hit as well because events that generate funding were canceled in light of public health orders prohibiting large gatherings.

Cortasha Upshaw, community affairs coordinator with Navajo Transitional Energy Company, presents a check to Nenahnezad Chapter President Norman Begaye and Nenahnezad Chapter Community Service Coordinator Arthur Bavaro at the NTEC office in Farmington.

"It was extremely important for us to do this because of COVID. It made everything that much more difficult for organizations, especially our chapters, to receive any type of funding," Upshaw said.

The total number of recipients included 15 chapter governments. Several submitted proposals to NTEC that stated they will use funding to purchase personal protective equipment, personal hygiene supplies and other items to help residents combat the new virus.

Upper Fruitland Chapter received funding to implement a drive-in style setup for community members to watch chapter meetings.

Chapter houses across the Navajo Nation have been closed to the public under executive orders issued earlier this year. 

Upper Fruitland Chapter Manager Alvis Kee said since then, the chapter has been using its website and Facebook page to relay information to residents.

Cortasha Upshaw, community affairs coordinator with Navajo Transitional Energy Company, distributes a check to Chinle Chapter Planner Tyrone Begay, left, and Chinle Chapter Manager Walton Yazzie.

While there has been a gradual ease in restrictions, Upper Fruitland continues to adhere to orders to limit chapter meetings to in-person attendance of five people.

To help residents observe the meetings, people can park outside the chapter house and watch the meeting on a large screen setup outside.

"There are people out there who want to know what’s going on. So, how do we help them? How do we get them to be part of the community again? This is the best way we can do it," he said.

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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