WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) – Navajo President Jonathan Nez has signed legislation to provide $ 557 million in aid to tribal members amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Nez approved the bill Tuesday night to send checks for $ 2,000 to adult tribal members and $ 600 for each child using federal virus relief funding. The Navajo Nation does not make per capita payments to tribal members, which has made widespread financial aid rare and highly anticipated.
Nez urged members of the tribe to use the money responsibly, including helping the elderly, students and veterans, or paying unpaid bills.
“Remember, we are not out of this pandemic yet,” Nez said Wednesday morning. “So don’t go and spend all that money. Put aside, the pandemic is still here. Plan.”
Later Wednesday, Navajo Nation health officials reported 168 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 along with two more deaths. The numbers brought the total to 41,971 cases and 1,592 deaths in the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah since the start of the pandemic.
The Navajo Nation Council voted to mine some of the $ 2.1 billion the tribe received from the American Rescue Plan Act that President Joe Biden signed last year. The money will automatically be sent to tribal members who requested relief funds a year ago as part of a previous round of hardship aid.
It is estimated that 250,000 adults will each receive $ 2,000, and parents or guardians of 95,000 tribal members under the age of 18 will receive $ 600 for each child.
Nez had previously approved checks for $ 300 for tribal residents aged 60 and over that showed they needed additional help under separate legislation. The tribe faced a deadline to spend the $ 16 million it had under the federal coronavirus aid, relief and economic security law approved by former President Donald Trump, or bring it back to the federal government.
The Navajo Nation also used the CARES Act funding to send the first round of hardship assistance payments.
The Navajo asked to register or correct their records to apply for the funding, increasing the number of tribal members from around 306,000 to nearly 400,000. This figure briefly put the Navajo Nation in the top spot. registrations among the 574 federally recognized tribes before being again dominated by the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.
The tribe paid out about $ 360 million to 312,000 applicants, according to the Tribal Comptroller’s Office. Adults received up to $ 1,350 and children up to $ 450. Other tribes across the country have also used federal relief funds to pay distress compensation to tribal members.
Navajo leaders say they will now turn to financing infrastructure projects, including electricity, broadband, water pipes and roads.
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