Spending of chapter CARES Act funds in planning phase
While the hardship assistance payments for individual Navajos are almost ready to roll out, the $90 million in COVID-19 relief allocated to the 110 chapters is more complicated and may take more time, the director of the Division of Community Development said last week.
DCD Director Pearl Yellowman said their first priority is to provide a community needs assessment form, which will be distributed to the chapters. “That needs assessment will help determine and quantify the needs out there among the Navajo people,” she said.
The DCD Administrative Services Center will then follow up with chapters on deadlines and timelines and, with the assistance of the controller’s office, will be allocating funds through Window Rock, said Yellowman. “This is a major task,” she said. “The chapters and the chapter staff and officials have a major responsibility. We rely on their leadership and on their ongoing communication to provide these direct services.”
Portal in development
Sonlatsa Jim-Martin, ASC department manager, confirmed that the chapter distribution plan is still in the planning phase and they will be releasing the community needs assessment form this week.
Like the hardship assistance, the chapter funds application will be through an online portal. “We are continuing to work out the logistics and processes with the portal system,” said Jim-Martin. “We have asked chapters to work on their community needs assessments and gather supporting documents.
“We want to encourage chapters to work with their community partners to get data, names, statistics to help them make informed decisions on how they want to spend their allocated funds,” she said. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act requires that funds be used for purposes that are “due” to the coronavirus and “necessary” expenditures, incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30, 2020.
A complete list of allowable expenses found in the Navajo Nation Council resolution (CS-73-20) includes: personal protective equipment; cleaning and sanitation supplies; fuel sources; essential food items; essential services such as solid waste removal; select infrastructure projects such as bathroom additions and water wells; equipment such as backhoes; COVID-19 safety modifications; utility and funeral assistance.
“We have the opportunity to have our chapters act as a resource, along with the community health workers, all working together to bring relief to the people,” said Delegate Mark Freeland, who sponsored the bill. Jim-Martin said training, orientation and assistance will be provided to chapter staff on how to use the online chapter distribution portal, which is being tested this week.
In the event that the chapters do not spend all of the $90 million allocation by Nov. 30, those funds can also be redirected to the hardship assistance payments for individuals. “This is a work in progress,” said Jim-Martin. “Further instructions will be forthcoming as we work to roll out the portal.”