$174 million still up for grabs

WINDOW ROCK

There is $176.4 million of the Navajo Nation CARES Act funding still up for grabs.

It took weeks for Navajo Nation leadership to earmark $476.6 million of the CARES funding to go toward water, electricity, and broadband, for the most part, before they approved $62 million for special duty pay, personal protective equipment for frontline workers and disinfecting government facilities.

Now it’s back to leadership to figure out how they will spend the remaining $176 million before Dec. 30. During the Law and Order Committee meeting Monday, Resource and Development Committee member Kee Allen Begay sponsored bill No. 0209-20, which is another CARES funding expenditure plan for the use of the remaining dollars.

The legislation passed this committee 3-0. “We are up against a time line,” said Begay to the committee. “The majority of it will go to an extent to the Navajo people.”

This is how the bill proposes to split the remaining CARES dollars: $4 million for Navajo Nation Shopping Centers Inc.; $15.4 million for broadband-telecommunication project expenditure plan, which will go to Division of Community Development than given to the Dineh Investment-Verizon partnership; $35 million for Department of Diné Education to provide emergency relief and assistance to college graduate and undergraduate students; and $4.3 million for Headstart.

The education hardship plan will give $5 million to the Division of Social Services for hardship assistance to eligible school-age children; $3 million for Diné Education Technology; $1 million to Department of Information Technology; $10 million Elderly and Developmental Disability Hardship; $15 million to Solar Projects; $7.4 million for Propane and Natural Gas; $602,000 to Division of Public Safety to provide for in-vehicle internet connectivity for first responders; $25 million for Housing Improvement; $5 million for Solid Waste; and $10 million to the controller’s office.

This bill comes from the executive office and heavily touted by President Jonathan Nez who has said the dollars will provide direct relief services and resources to the Navajo people. “There was some monies remaining that weren’t budgeted,” said Nez during an August virtual town hall meeting. “What’s left now, what we are proposing, we ask for your support.

We heard the plea of the Navajo people and saying that there needs to be some funds that go directly to the Navajo people.” On Tuesday, for the first time since March 17, the Navajo Nation reported no new cases of COVID-19, but there are 527 deaths and a total of 9,903 cases.

But even with low case numbers, and with fears of a second wave, putting these dollars to good use is pivotal. “It did get presented to all three branch chiefs over a month ago,” said executive staffer Christopher Bahe. “Some of these were line-item vetoed to be reconsidered and revamped. Eighty percent, if not more, goes to direct services.”

Regarding CARES Act funding, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority reported they have connected over 100 homes to the electric grid using funds that were included in Resolution CJY-67-20.

NTUA was allocated $13.8 million for power line projects, $24.7 million to increase overall electric grid capacity, $20.9 million for cisterns systems, $18.6 million for wastewater systems, and $32.8 million for wireless and broadband expansion.

NTUA continues to accept applications from residents for its residential solar program, which was allocated $35.1 million in CARES Act funds. If you are interested in the solar program, visit www.ntua.com under\ CARES Act-NTUA Projects.


About The Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council and Office of the President and Vice President. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at abecenti@navajotimes.com. Follow her on Twitter at @abecenti

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