Navajo leader OKs $557M in virus relief funds for members - Albuquerque Journal

Navajo leader OKs $557M in virus relief funds for members

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez visits the Chinle Comprehensive Healthcare Facility in Arizona in December to oversee the first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the Navajo Nation. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Navajo President Jonathan Nez has signed legislation to provide $557 million in hardship assistance to tribal members amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nez approved the bill last week to send $2,000 checks to adult tribal members and $600 for each child using federal virus relief funding. The Navajo Nation doesn’t issue per capita payments to tribal members, which made the widespread financial assistance rare and highly anticipated.

Nez urged tribal members to use the money responsibly, including to help the elderly, students and veterans or to pay outstanding bills.

“Remember, we’re not out of this pandemic yet,” Nez said. “So don’t go and spend all this money. Put some aside, the pandemic is still here. Plan.”

The Navajo Nation Council voted to tap 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 be sent to tribal members who applied a year ago for relief funds under a previous round of hardship assistance.

An estimated 250,000 adults each will receive $2,000 payments, and the parents or guardians of 95,000 tribal members under the age of 18 will receive $600 for each child.

Nez previously approved $300 checks for tribal residents 60 and older who showed they needed extra assistance under separate legislation. The tribe was up against a deadline to spend the $16 million it had from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act approved by former President Donald Trump, or have it revert to the federal government.

The Navajo Nation also used CARES Act funding to send the first round of hardship assistance payments.

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