Nez signs bill to house American Rescue Plan funds, create office to oversee allocation

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signed into law the creation of a fund to hold the American Rescue Plan dollars and enact other provisions associated with the amount the tribe received in May.

"This will be a big shot in the arm for the Navajo Nation in terms of community and economic development," Nez said prior to signing the document on the afternoon of Aug. 2.

The Navajo Nation received approximately $1.86 billion from the federal coronavirus relief package, which part of its purpose is to enable state, local and tribal governments to continue supporting the public health response to the pandemic and provide resources for governments to invest in infrastructure.

More:Navajo Nation receives $1.86 billion from American Rescue Plan

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signs on Aug. 2 the tribal council resolution to setup a fund to hold the $1.86 billion the tribe received under the federal American Rescue Plan.

The Navajo Nation Council passed the bill on July 22. The legislation also called for using a portion of the $1.86 billion to reimburse financial resources that were used last year to respond to the pandemic and to create a temporary office within the president's office to administer the American Rescue Plan fund.

Nez hailed the delegates' support for creating the office, saying it will be a central location for agencies overseeing the fund and get projects moving.

Tribes have until Dec. 31, 2024 to obligate funds to projects and until the end of 2026 to complete projects.

Speaker Seth Damon attended the signing ceremony in Window Rock, Arizona along with delegates Carl Slater, Rick Nez, Mark Freeland, Wilson Stewart Jr. and Thomas Walker Jr.

Pandemic recovery:Proposal to set up fund for American Rescue Plan amount clears Navajo Nation Council

From left, Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer, Speaker Seth Damon, Navajo Nation Council Delegate Carl Slater and tribal President Jonathan Nez gather on Aug. 2 for a signing ceremony to enact a fund to store the tribe's amount from the American Rescue Plan.

"I know that this is a legislation that's going to create the foundation in order for us to go ahead and move forward," Damon said.

The speaker added that the office will eliminate competing bills for American Rescue Plan spending going to council, which is an issue that tribal leaders saw when divvying up the amount the tribe received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

More:Navajo Nation repeals several COVID-19 restrictions, reopening region to visitors

Slater, who sponsored the bill, said projects that center on infrastructure and the economy are essential to build up the tribal land, making it a place where young professionals want to stay.

"This legislation is an investment in empathy and compassion for our citizens. It is not a legislation for individuals. It is for the infrastructure of the nation," Slater 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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