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First ARPA spending bill proposes $1.16 billion

WINDOW ROCK

The first bill to appropriate American Rescue Plan Act Fiscal Recovery Funds for new projects and services were dropped on Nov. 24 by sponsor Seth Damon, speaker of the Council, and Navajo Nation leaders, saying it will provide direct relief and jobs for Diné citizens.

President Jonathan Nez said the bill’s expenditure plan is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the Navajo Nation and to improve the quality of life for elders, the disabled, veterans, youth, and families.

“Never before has the Navajo Nation received this level of funding in such a short timeframe,” Nez said.

The president’s office in conjunction with the speaker’s office, Office of Legislative Services and Department of Justice, have worked for months on the 250-plus-page legislation to help provide immediate and long-term relief for the Navajo people.

“This legislation ensures we invest over $1.1 billion in new funding opportunities to begin construction on projects with our own Navajo workers,” said co-sponsor Delegate Pernell Halona.

The resolution, if approved by the Navajo Nation Council, will allocate $1.16 billion of Navajo Nation Fiscal Recovery Funds for water and wastewater projects ($301 million), broadband infrastructure projects ($208 million), home electricity connection projects ($200 million), housing and housing renovation projects ($100 million), bathroom additions ($150 million), and hardship assistance ($207 million).

Nez said that, per the bill, individuals who previously received hardship assistance through the CARES Act program would not have to re-apply for the next round of hardship funds that would allocate $600 to tribally enrolled citizens.

“If passed by the Council, this legislation will provide immediate financial relief for children and adults,” Nez said.

In July, the Council approved a resolution (No. CJY-41-21), which was signed into law by Nez and provides the framework for the appropriation and spending of the Nation’s $2.1 billion in ARPA Fiscal Recovery Funds.

The bill also established the Navajo Nation Fiscal Recovery Fund Office, led by Executive Director Tom Platero, to manage and administer the funds and projects.

All FRF-funded projects and services must be completed and funds must be fully expended by Dec. 31, 2026.

“We have four years to spend this money, so we have to begin building water lines, constructing homes, and supporting our local chapters hit hardest by COVID-19,” co-sponsor Delegate Mark Freeland said. “Lines of communication between all branches of the Navajo government have to be open and transparent.

“We believe our people are ready to get to work in their communities because they can design, construct and oversee our infrastructure projects,” Freeland said. “The creation of Navajo jobs that employ our people at each ARPA project is the main goal as we defeat this pandemic together.”

A special Naabik’íyáti’ Committee work session to discuss the bill will be held this week, Dec. 1 and 2, at Twin Arrows Navajo Casino and Resort and will include presentations by the president’s chief of staff, Paulson Chaco, Chief Legislative Counsel Dana Bobroff, DOJ attorney Mel Rodis, and executive branch division directors and ARPA consultants.

“The implementation of the Fiscal Recovery Funds will be life-changing for many of our elders, youth, and many others, but it will take collaboration and support from all leaders to be successful,” Vice President Myron Lizer said.

“We have so many needs in our communities across the Navajo Nation,” he said, “and we are taking a huge step forward for our people and to help us emerge from this pandemic.”

The president’s office said the Nez-Lizer administration will continue to work with the legislative branch to develop more legislation to allocate funds for educational initiatives, wellness and detox centers, senior centers, transitional housing, mental health services, social services, chapter projects, economic development, tourism, and Navajo Nation enterprises.

“The Navajo Nation Council will introduce several more legislations to address the ongoing needs of the Navajo people during this pandemic,” Damon said. “We will work with our executive branch divisions and programs to invest over $958 million in water and electric lines, broadband infrastructure, and housing construction projects that will employ a Navajo workforce.”

“It is important we carefully allocate ARPA money that will uplift our small businesses and immediately begin chapter projects,” Damon said.

The schedule at Twin Arrows also includes presentations by the executive branch directors on ARPA funds earmarked for programs that amount to $534 million in addition to the $2.1 billion in FRF funds.

No. 0257-21 and can be viewed in on the Office of Legislative Services website at: http://dibb.nnols.org

Additional information on which ARPA FRF projects fall under each chapter, broken down by delegate district, can be found on the Navajo Division of Community Development website: https://sites.google.com/nndcd.org/dcd-arpa/24th-council-delegate-district


About The Author

Rima Krisst

Reporter and photojournalist Rima Krisst has been with the Navajo Times since July of 2018, and covers our Arts and Culture and Government Affairs beats. Prior to joining the editorial team at the Times, Krisst worked in various capacities in the areas of communications, public relations, marketing and Indian Affairs policy on behalf of the Tribes, Nations and Pueblos of New Mexico. Among her posts, she served as Director of PR and Communications for the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department under Governor Bill Richardson, Healthcare Outreach and Education Manager for the Eight Northern Pueblos, Tribal Tourism Liaison for the City of Santa Fe, and Marketing Projects Coordinator for Santa Fe Indian Market. As a writer and photographer, she has also worked independently as a contractor on many special projects, and her work has been published in magazines. Krisst earned her B.S. in Business Administration/Finance from the University of Connecticut.

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