Nez signs bill to house American Rescue Plan funds, create office to oversee allocation
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.
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.
"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.
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 email@example.com.
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