Grant relief on the way for Navajo businesses, artisans
In the next several months, the Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development plans on dispersing $54.5 million in Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds (approved in Legislation No. 144-20) to eligible Navajo businesses and artisans adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of that, $36.5 million in direct relief will be available through the Navajo Business Economic Relief Grant program and $18 million through the Navajo Artisans Economic Relief Grant program for those businesses and artisans who can demonstrate they have suffered financial hardship since March due to COVID-19.
“A lot of businesses have really felt the pain of the shutdown because of the public health emergency,” said Douglas Capitan, DED senior projects specialist, in an online forum last week. Capitan said that the decline in tourism and cancelling of art shows and fairs has been especially detrimental to artisans. The DED grant program is intended to help businesses and artisans recoup some of the financial losses that the pandemic has caused.
“Our Navajo Economic Relief Grant program is aimed to help our Navajo businesses gain an upper footing again in terms of their finances, help with their operational expenses, and promote economic stability,” said Capitan.
DED has worked steadily since early May to develop the grant application process for eligible enrolled members of the Navajo Nation, which consists of two parts. Both businesses and artisans must complete (1) their Navajo business certification so that they can be registered with the Navajo Business Regulatory Department source listing, and (2) the Navajo Economic Relief Grant application.
DED is recommending businesses and artisans get started right away on their business certification/source listing applications if they are not already registered. Navajo business certification applicants must provide a certificate of Indian blood and an employer identification number or Social Security number. They will also need to file an Office of the Navajo Tax Commission Form 100 business certification.
Additionally, applicants need to furnish background information such as financial history and organizational structure. A procurement review, to include information such as veteran status, business-site lease information, and outstanding loans will also be conducted.
Once all of this information is received there is a review process and, provided an applicant is approved, a business certification number will be issued. Economic Development Specialist Shauyna Manus said BRD has streamlined its processes and made it easy to scan and upload required documents. “The business regulatory source listing is to promote Navajo Business Opportunity Act and Navajo businesses,” she said. “When we ask people to sign up, it’s to help promote their businesses, not to make things complicated or difficult.”
Once registered with BRD, applicants can use their source listing number to complete the grant application for the CARES Act funds. “You’ll need that number to begin the second part of the process,” said Capitan.
The NERG applications, scheduled to be available starting on Sept. 8, will be used to determine eligibility and financial hardship of businesses and artisans applying for assistance.
According to DED, the audit firm Baker Tilly has been hired by controller’s office to help administer the funds to approved applicants in a fair and timely manner. Applications and supporting documentation can be submitted through the DED website or in person by no later than Oct. 30.
DED is hoping to issue the first payments to businesses and artisans by mid-September, and expend the entirety of the relief funds by mid-November.\ The deadline for DED to distribute the $54.5 million funds to eligible recipients is Dec. 30.
Requirements for businesses
Those applying for the Navajo Business Economic Relief Grant must be for-profit businesses that are at least 51% Navajo owned, with fewer than 300 employees as of March 1 and in operation prior to Jan. 1.
Qualifying businesses that are able to demonstrate they have faced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 public health emergency could be eligible for up to $60,000 in relief, depending on availability of funds and the level of business losses they have suffered.
Applicants requesting a grant distribution greater than $10,000 will be asked to provide additional information to comply with U.S. Treasury reporting requirements. Businesses that have already received assistance through other CARES Act programs such as the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Programs are not eligible for the Navajo Business Economic Relief Grant program.
Requirements for artisans
Established Navajo artisans 18 and older, who can demonstrate that they have faced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, could qualify for up to $5,000 in relief. Capitan said DED’s definition of artisan is “very broad” and can include anyone from silversmiths to weavers to performing artists who have experienced a drop in income due to COVID-19 and are having a hard time keeping up with their basic needs such as food, housing and utilities.
However, artisans will have to provide proof of “a sustained commitment to their work, careers, and public audience for their work,” such as membership in artist associations, projects, and financial information, including items like sales receipts.
DED on deck
DED Director JT Willie said that technical assistance will be offered at the Navajo Regional Business Development Offices and the DED administration offices in St. Michaels, Arizona. “Our intention is to be of assistance to our business owners and entrepreneurs on the Navajo Nation,” said Willie.
He shared that additional staff has been hired to provide support to applicants and help expedite the application process. DED staff will also be doing community outreach and application support at select Navajo Nation Shopping Center locations, he added.
“We are doing our best to make sure we are accessible in terms of providing assistance,” said Capitan. “We are here to help you and make sure this process is as simple and as easy as possible.”
Information: www.navajoeconomy.org, www.tax.navajo-nsn.gov or 928-871-6544.