Navajo Nation looks to use portion of ARPA funds on infrastructure, hardship assistance

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation leadership is taking steps to allocate a portion of the funding received through the American Rescue Plan.

Speaker Seth Damon has introduced a bill to disburse approximately $1.16 billion from the total amount the tribe received this year to fund infrastructure projects.

The proposal also calls for funding hardship assistance to help tribal members affected financially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Damon, along with tribal President Jonathan Nez and Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne, met with division directors and council delegates to map out using the funding, according to a news release from the president's office.

"This will be the first of several legislations that will be considered to allocate over 2 billion that the Navajo Nation received to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic," the release states.

The bill proposes using $301 million for water and wastewater projects developed under the Navajo Department of Water Resources or the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority.

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Part of the allocation to the Department of Water Resources would pay for connecting communities to the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.

NTUA is seeking funding to build new wastewater treatment plants in Shiprock and in Chinle and Kayenta, both in Arizona.

The three communities need new facilities to replace outdated treatment plants, according to the request submitted by NTUA.

Other allocations in the bill call for using $208 million on broadband, $200 million to bring electricity to homes – either by power lines or off-grid solar systems, $100 million to build new homes or to renovate existing structures, $150 million on bathroom additions and $207 million for hardship assistance.

To implement the legislation, it would need the support of the Navajo Nation Council and authorization by President Nez.

A work session for council delegates to discuss the legislation with the president's office, division directors and other entities is scheduled on Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 at Twin Arrows Casino Resort near Flagstaff, Arizona.

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The agenda is available on the tribal council website, navajonationcouncil.org.

The tribe received its first amount of the American Rescue Plan funds, approximately $1.86 billion, in May. It received the second sum of approximately $217.91 million in August.

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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