Navajo Nation receives $1.86 billion from American Rescue Plan
Tribal governments receive $20 billion in recovery funds
FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation has received approximately $1.86 billion under the American Rescue Plan Act to further recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Office of the Navajo Nation President and Vice President and the Office of the Speaker issued a joint press release on May 29 announcing the U.S. Department of the Treasury notified the tribal government on May 28 about the amount.
The American Rescue Plan Act was signed in March by President Joe Biden. It appropriated $20 billion to tribal governments through the Treasury Department to address the economic fallout from the pandemic and to further recovery efforts.
Overall, the relief package will provide nearly $32 billion to Indian Country to address critical areas such as underdeveloped infrastructure and inadequate health care through agencies like the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education and Indian Health Service.
"This is the Navajo people's money and we are obligated to inform the Navajo people every step of the way throughout this process. These funds must be used responsibly and transparently to help our people and our nation recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic," tribal President Jonathan Nez said in the release.
He added his administration will work with the tribal council, judicial branch, divisions, chapters and others to develop plans and introduce legislation to allocate funding that provides relief and assistance to tribal members and to communities.
Discussions by the tribal leadership had been taking place in recent weeks about how to use the then-anticipated amount.
"These federal funds will be an opportunity to address not only the needs of the Navajo people today, but to be effective and efficient as we build our economy well into the future post COVID-19. The Navajo Nation Council will take great care to use these funds wisely," Speaker Seth Damon said in the release.
The American Rescue Plan Act directs that $1 billion be allocated equally among eligible tribal governments and the remaining $19 billion be allocated in a manner determined by the secretary of the treasury.
The Treasury Department announced its methodology for determining payment amounts, which will be delivered to tribal governments over two payments.
The methodology determined by the department is that $12.35 billion will be based on self-certified tribal enrollment numbers, and the remaining $6.65 billion be based on self-certified tribal employment data from 2019.
The press release states that the Navajo Nation submitted enrollment numbers that showed a membership of close to 400,000.
In April, the tribe's Office of the Controller reported that the number of enrolled tribal members went from 306,268 to 399,494 partly due to the hardship assistance fund, which had a mandatory enrollment requirement for eligibility.
For the second payment, tribes have until June 21 to submit employment numbers to the Treasury Department.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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