$1.9 billion in ARPA funds land in Navajo Nation coffers
The Navajo Nation has received $1,861,554,458 in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the U.S. Treasury, representing 65% of its allocation from the total $20 billion set aside for tribal governments, as was announced in a joint press release by the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Council on Saturday morning.
“This is the Navajo people’s money and we are obligated to inform the Navajo people every step of the way throughout this process,” said President Jonathan Nez. “These funds must be used responsibly and transparently to help our people and our Nation recover from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
On Friday the Nation received notice of the receipt of complete and accurate documentation submitted through the Navajo Nation Washington Office (May 21) that was used to calculate the Navajo’s portion of the ARPA Coronavirus state and local Fiscal Recovery Funding.
The initial $1.9 billion allocation is based on self-certified Navajo Nation enrollment numbers, now close to 400,000 members, plus the Nation’s share of $1 billion equally allocated among tribes.
Navajo’s remaining 35% of its share of the $19 billion for tribes will be distributed based on tribal employment data, which has to be certified by June 21, 2021.
Nez said the executive branch will continue to work together with the Council, Judicial Branch, Divisions, Chapters, and other entities to develop plans and introduce legislation to allocate the funds to provide relief and assistance for the Navajo people and communities.
“The Navajo Nation for well over the last year has faced significant challenges when the COVID-19 Coronavirus hit the Navajo Nation,” said Speaker Seth Damon. “We lost many of our loved ones and elders as we struggled through this disease. These federal funds will be an opportunity to address not only the needs of the Navajo people today, but to be effective and efficient as we build our economy well into the future post COVID-19.”
The ARPA funds offer much more flexibility and leeway within categories of eligible uses than the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Stimulus Act monies that were focused largely on addressing the health impacts of COVID-19, while the ARPA is also designed to promote recovery, including economic and infrastructure.
Per U.S. Treasury guidelines indicate the funds received may be used to:
Fund ongoing COVID-19 public health expenditures, including mitigation, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare, and staffing.
Address the negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, including economic harm to individuals, families, small businesses, impacted industries, and the public sector.
Replace lost public sector revenue, which can in turn be used to provide government services to the extent a reduction in revenue was experienced due to the pandemic.
Provide “premium pay” for essential workers who have experienced the greatest health risks in their work.
Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
“Tribal governments have broad flexibility to decide how best to use this funding to meet the needs of their local communities,” states the joint press release.
Other services provided by tribal governments that may be eligible for ARPA funding include:
Addressing health disparities and social determinants of health, including community health workers, public benefits navigators, remediation of lead hazards, and community violence intervention programs.
Building stronger neighborhoods and communities, including housing and other services for the homeless, development of affordable housing, housing vouchers and counseling.
Addressing educational disparities exacerbated by COVID-19.
Promoting healthy childhood environments, including childcare, home visiting programs, and enhanced services for child welfare-involved families and foster youth.
Vice President Myron Lizer said the Nation must work together to ensure the funds are “fully accounted for and used for the benefit of our Navajo people,” including frontline warriors, and investments in infrastructure that will continue to bring business development and create jobs.
Damon ensured the Navajo Nation Council will take great care to use the ARPA funds wisely.
“Navajo’s future will be brighter and we will continue to coordinate with county, state and federal officials to monitor the evolving impacts of the Coronavirus,” he said.