B&F votes to help chapters with emergency funds
Council Delegate Raymond Smith wants chapters to be prepared for emergencies.
His Legislation 0383-19 requests supplemental funding of $1.4 million from the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance to be appropriated for chapters with less than $25,000 in emergency funds, and during Tuesday’s regular Budget and Finance Committee meeting the legislation was approved and now heads to Naabik’iyati.
“We help our chapters out there in preparedness, response, mitigation, recovery (from) any unforeseen emergency,” said Smith. “Some chapters are getting ready: Chapters are hauling wood, some chapters are collecting coal.”
An October 2019 letter from the Navajo Nation Office of Management and Budget stated there was about $16.9 million available in the UUFB. It also stated that within the 110 chapters emergency funds are inconsistent.
Council Delegate Amber Crotty said that this legislation can be viewed as rewarding the chapters that did not prepare for emergencies. Chapters like her chapters, that have placed dollars in emergency funds, won’t get this assistance.
“The seven chapters that I represent have a regional emergency plan through CPMD (Capital Projects Management Department) and I’ve encouraged my chapters to put money in there because they’ll need it when an emergency happens,” said Crotty. “Now they will not be provided any assistance … We are creating a system for chapters to not plan ahead, but to wait for the Council to allocate dollars.”
Crotty also suggested there should be a recommendation that all chapters have at least $25,000 in its emergency funds.
Council Delegate Nathaniel Brown expressed concern over possible misuse of dollars within the chapters.
“If we give them additional funding are they going to continue to misuse the funding?” asked Brown. “Are we just encouraging this misuse?”
Brenda Holgate, Division of Community Development, said misuse of funding within chapters is an issue that DCD is trying to address. She said they have been visiting with chapters that are considered a risk and monitoring and assessing them, as well as reviewing their finances.
“We are looking into their carry-over budget and why they have carry-over and why it’s huge,” explained Holgate of the 12 chapters they’ve been observing. “We are looking at their property inventory, their travel, we are looking at their personnel, PAF’s… Every training with our chapters that’s the first word we use, ‘Please watch how you spend your funding. There is so much misuse going on.’”
What concerned Smith and Crotty is the possible veto of this legislation, similar to that of similar legislation last year when Council passed a bill requesting $3 million for Navajo chapters to use for emergency response efforts after a big snowstorm had hit the Nation.
In anticipation of last February’s storm, dubbed “Snowpocolypse,” Navajo President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer declared a state of emergency. At the time Division of Community Development stated that the 110 chapters had a total of over $2.4 million in emergency funds.
Nez had vetoed the $3 million approved by Council. The president, at the time, stated that the $2.4 million was already made available for chapters for emergency funds. Also at the time the UUFB was at $47,000 and the $3 million would have left the funding source in the red.
“Why I’m concerned about this is because last time we did this as a Council and supported it, but President Nez vetoed it,” said Crotty. “But there was still community members who needed emergency assistance in their chapters.”
Smith said once this legislation hits Naabik’iyati he hopes it wont be tabled and that it makes its way to winter session, which starts Monday.