Navajo Nation receives $2B total under American Rescue Plan, office set up to oversee funds

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signed an executive order on Oct. 4 to establish the office tasked with overseeing the $2 billion the tribe received under the American Rescue Plan.

The tribe received approximately $1.86 billion in May from the federal coronavirus relief package then an estimated $217.91 million on Aug. 16.

Part of the purpose of the American Rescue Plan is to enable state, local and tribal governments to continue supporting the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic and to provide resources for governments to invest in infrastructure.

Governments have until the end of 2024 to make plans for using the money and the end of 2026 to spend it. Any amount not used or obligated must return to the federal government.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signs on Aug. 2, 2021 the tribal council resolution to setup a fund to hold the initial amount the tribe received under the federal American Rescue Plan.

During the summer, the Navajo Nation Council and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez approved creating a temporary office within the president's office to oversee the $2 billion.

The tribal law allows using a portion of the funding to reimburse financial resources – such as the Síhasin Fund and the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance – that were used last year to respond to the pandemic.

Nez said in the news release from his office that the initial distributions from the $2 billion will cover those reimbursements and any amounts that were recaptured at the end of last year from departments, programs, enterprises and projects that received funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Jared Touchin, spokesman for the president's office, explained that the recaptured amounts were used for the hardship assistance program and each is being reviewed by the tribe's Department of Justice to determine eligibility under the American Rescue Plan criteria.

The executive order signed by Nez this week establishes the Navajo Nation Fiscal Recovery Fund Office, which will be the clearinghouse for activities related to the $2 billion.

The newly established Navajo Nation Fiscal Recovery Fund Office will be inside the tribe's Division of Transportation building in Tsé Bonito.

This responsibility includes making sure authorized projects and services are completed and that any entity that receives funding follow tribal laws and stipulations outlined in the American Rescue Plan Act.

The office will be managed by an executive director appointed by the president.

Its location will be inside the Division of Transportation building in Tsé Bonito and it will become operational over the next few weeks, according to the president's office.

"We do hear the concerns of our people and we understand the need to expedite the internal processes to expend the funds as quickly as possible, while providing accountability and ensuring compliance with federal requirements each step of the way. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to improve the quality of life for our people now and future generations," Nez 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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