Diné expected to receive $500 million this week
Today the U.S. Department of Treasury announced that it will begin to distribute $4.8 billion (60%) of the $8 billion Congress allocated for coronavirus relief for tribal governments in the CARES Act six weeks ago.
“We thank our congressional partners for working hard to convey to the Treasury and Interior secretaries the importance of getting this funding out the door and to tribal nations,” said Navajo Nation Speaker Seth Damon. “We also thank President Trump for approving this relief package for all tribes.”
Delegate Carl Slater said the Navajo Nation is expected to receive “upwards of $500 million,” which should be deposited by this Friday.
The exact final amount of the allocation is undergoing revision by Treasury currently and President Donald Trump is expected to announce a figure at his press conference later today, according Communications Director Byron Shorty with the speaker’s office.
“Treasury’s announcement is the definition of ‘too little, too late.’ It comes weeks after the deadline and billions of dollars short,” said U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
“All $8 billion of the tribal relief fund— and not a dollar less — needs to get out the door, on the ground, and into the right hands immediately,” Udall said. “And the administration must stop deploying COVID-19 resources in a way that systemically excludes tribes and Native communities.”
Udall said the announcement comes just a day after the administration announced that it would severely limit access to the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund for the Indian Health Service and exclude Native communities – despite the fact that some parts of Indian Country, like the Navajo Nation, have some of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the U.S.
The distribution of the first $4.8 billion in funding among tribes, which has been fiercely debated and litigated in past weeks, is based on population data.
The second distribution of the balance of the funds will be calculated based on number of tribal employees and COVID-19-related expenditures.
The Navajo Nation Council is prepared to introduce legislation to accept and manage expenditures for COVID-19 response activities, in-line with federal law and as required by the Navajo Nation Code, according to a press release from the speaker’s office.