Navajo Nation Council to take up bill that initiates more hardship assistance payments
Recipients could get $600 each if measure is approved
GALLUP — The Navajo Nation Council is slated this week to consider an emergency bill that proposes providing additional payments to recipients of the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program.
The bill was introduced last week. It proposes allocating $207 million from funding the tribe received through the American Rescue Plan to distribute payments of $600 to each recipient.
The American Rescue Plan Act was passed by Congress earlier this year. President Joe Biden signed it into law on March 11. The federal coronavirus relief package enables state, local and tribal governments to provide economic relief due to the impacts of the pandemic.
It provided $2 billion to the Navajo Nation.
"The financial devastation visited on the Navajo people by the COVID-19 pandemic has risen to emergency levels, particularly with winter weather looming, and the Navajo Nation Council has determined that it is vital that the Navajo people be provided immediate financial assistance," the emergency legislation states.
Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, the bill's sponsor, said on Dec. 20 that if it is enacted, checks would automatically be sent to recipients, and there would be an application period for new applicants.
"It has been 283 days since President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act," Crotty said in a news release the Office of the Speaker issued on Dec. 18. "The Navajo people need immediate assistance now during this pandemic and the Navajo government must meet their requests."
The payment of $600 for each recipient and details about the program are identical to the hardship assistance request included in a bill Speaker Seth Damon introduced in November.
The speaker's bill has yet to be taken up by the council. Instead, it continues to be discussed by delegates in work sessions.
Alray Nelson, spokesperson for the Speaker's Office, said the council is planning the special session on Dec. 22.
Nelson said the President's Office is aware of the emergency bill, and officials have attended work sessions with council delegates about federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and from a separate relief package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
"If the (measures) pass, it will be up to President (Jonathan) Nez to either approve or veto," Nelson said. "The council is confident that the president will support the bills that will help thousands of Navajo people immediately."
Nez said in a Dec. 20 statement to The Daily Times, "Resolution CJY-41-21 was overwhelmingly approved by the council with 21 supporting votes in July, and that established the framework for the implementation of ARPA funds including the $207 million allocation for hardship assistance. We will continue to support this, along with infrastructure development, because we know our people need a hand up as this pandemic continues."
Support local journalism with a digital subscription to The Daily Times.