Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights 2020

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Navajo Nation Council approves coronavirus $93 million immediate expenditure response package


Photo: Navajo President's Office

Navajo Nation Council approves coronavirus $93 million immediate expenditure response package, but package not yet finalized

The Navajo Nation Council approved an emergency spending package on June 19, but Navajo President Nez said Thursday that he has not received the package yet, which requires his signature. The $93 million will be distributed from the $600 million in federal CARES ACT funds that the Navajo Nation received on May 6. 

Below are the two statements of the Navajo Nation Council and Navajo President

By NAVAJO NATION COUNCIL
Office of the Speaker
June 24, 2020

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Responding to public input, information shared in Naabik'íyáti' Committee work sessions and discussions with programs and local leaders, the 24th Navajo Nation Council approved a $93 million coronavirus (COVID-19) immediate expenditure response package on Friday.

The COVID-19 response package will utilize a portion of the more than $600 million received by the Navajo Nation since May 6 from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Act relief funding.

The immediate expenditures from the Navajo Nation CARES Fund, which was established by the Navajo Nation Council's earlier Resolution No. CMY-44-20, totaled $50,559,530.10 before the Council's amendments to the line-item expenditures.

After the Naabik'íyáti' Committee and Council amendments, the Navajo Nation Health Incident Command Center within the Navajo Department of Health was authorized to expend a total of $93,059,530.10 from the Fund for the following purposes:

• $10 million for care packages of food, water and basic necessities;
• $2 million to enable tele-work capability for government employees;
• $3.5 million for bathroom additions and upgrades;
• $7 million for burnout assistance for 156 homes;
• $3 million in assistance for Public Law 93-638 healthcare facilities on the Navajo Nation;
• $2,559,530.10 to improve procurement processing of Navajo Nation CARES Fund expenditures;
• $55 million to be distributed to Local Governance Act (LGA) Certified Chapters and non-LGA Certified Chapters to address COVID-19 relief and mitigation issues at the local level, pursuant to the 50/50 formula set forth at 12 N.N.C. § 820 (O); and,
• $10 million to the Navajo Nation Judicial Branch to combat COVID-19.

Once the approved legislation is engrossed, or updated to its final legal form, by the Office of Legislative Services and then certified by the Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, it will be delivered to the Navajo Nation President for approval, regular veto or line-item veto.

Budget & Finance Committee

When the Budget and Finance Committee (BFC) considered Legislation No. 0116-20 on Jun. 2, the committee amended the legislation to create the three-branch responsibility for developing and preparing expenditure plans. An expenditure plan is a document that establishes legal sufficiency and accountability for the use of Navajo Nation funds.

Together, the President of the Navajo Nation, Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council and Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation will jointly incorporate the needs of the whole Navajo Nation, all three branches and the needs of the Kayenta Township through one or more expenditure plans.

The BFC also added language to include the Speaker and the Chief Justice in the presentation of a final expenditure plan(s) for the remaining balance, including future deposits, of the Navajo Nation CARES Fund. Those plans will require the approval of the BFC, Naabik'íyáti' Committee and the Navajo Nation Council.

Naabik'íyáti' Committee

On. Jun. 18, the Naabik'íyáti' Committee approved three amendments before referring Legislation No. 0116-20 to the Navajo Nation Council. Earlier, on Jun. 15, the committee held a work session with all three branch chiefs to work out a merger of the remaining provisions of the line-item vetoed Resolution No. CMY-44-20, formerly known as Legislation No. 0115-20, and Legislation No. 0116-20. Without it, the language of either of the two measures contradicted or conflicted with the other.

The resulting amendments clarified the status of Navajo Nation CARES Funds and bridged the expedited procurement process and expenditure plan framework of CMY-44-20 with the three-branch approach and immediate expenditures of Legislation No. 0116-20. The Naabik'íyáti' Committee also made the significant amendment to add funding of $55 million through the Health Command Incident Center to distribute to Navajo Nation Chapters for relief and mitigation issues. Support for Navajo contractors and businesses was also established in expending Navajo Nation CARES Funds.

The allocation for hazard pay was also amended by the Naabik'íyáti' Committee, but the item would be more directly addressed by Legislation No. 0132-20, sponsored by Speaker Seth Damon.

Navajo Nation Council

At a special session on Jun. 19, the 24th Navajo Nation Council took up Legislation No. 0116-20 with the prior committees' amendments and discussed, at length, the immediate expenditure line-items. To create more immediate support for justice services and Navajo families experiencing hardships due to faulty or nonexistent bathroom facilities and homes lost to fire, the Council approved $20.5 million in new expenditures.

The Council also approved an amendment to delete line-items for personal protective equipment (PPE), payroll and hazard pay expenses, and facilities disinfection and reconfiguration allocations because it had already approved $41 million for those purposes under Legislation No. 0132-20.

In approving Legislation No. 0116-20, the Navajo Nation Council reaffirmed that the President of the Navajo Nation is delegated the authority to negotiate agreements with federal agencies on behalf of the Navajo Nation to expand the use of federal CARES Act funds for needed relief of Navajo families. The Navajo Nation Code requires those agreements to be approved by the Budget and Finance Committee of the Navajo Nation Council before they may be executed by the Navajo Nation President.

The 24th Navajo Nation Council approved a total $134,059,530.10 in COVID-19 response funding through Legislation Nos. 0132-20 and 0116-20 on Friday, Jun. 19.

All discussion of Navajo Nation CARES Funds, including Legislation No. 0116-20, by the Navajo Nation Council and standing committees can be accessed online at the livestream archive: www.vimeo.com/navajonationcouncil.

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MEDIA CONTACTS: nnlb.communications@gmail.com, (928) 287-2085
Byron C. Shorty, INT Communications Director
Timothy E. Benally, Public Information Officer
Isabella S. Robbins, Staff Writer


Passage of the Navajo Nation CARES Act legislation is a victory for the Navajo People

By Navajo President Jonathan Nez

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer commend the Navajo Nation Council’s passage of Legislation 0116-20, which creates a path forward for the three branches of government to work together to begin using the $600 million in CARES Act funds to help the Navajo people and frontline warriors in the fight against COVID-19. The measure was approved on June 19, yet the final resolution has not been delivered to the Office of the President and Vice President as of Thursday – nearly one week later.

“We strongly advocated for the passage of the legislation, which was strongly supported by the Navajo people. Legislation No. 0116-20 received over 2,800 supporting signatures on an online petition and over 100 written supporting comments from the Navajo people, but the resolution has not reached our office for consideration. It’s time to stop playing political games and send the resolution to the Office of the President and Vice President,” said President Nez.

Despite the President’s call for no amendments to Legislation No. 0116-20, the 24th Navajo Nation Council moved ahead to approve six amendments, which altered the intent of the legislation. Some of these amendments changed the original CARES Act expenditure proposal, as the original legislation sought immediate use of $50 million to assist in reopening the Navajo Nation by purchasing test kits to test all employees prior to having them return to work, purchasing personal protection equipment, cleaning/disinfecting compromised government buildings, and hazard pay for employees working during the pandemic such as CHR’s, senior citizen center staff, first responders, and others. These dollars were removed or altered from the original legislation through Council’s amendments.

Another amendment removed the creation of a three-branch Cares Act “work group,” which would’ve worked together to ensure the vetting of infrastructure projects based on project readiness or construction readiness and expedite the expenditure of funds for these projects. President Nez said that although the “work group” was removed from the legislation, the Executive Branch will move forward with creating a team to package up the expenditure plan.

“It’s clear that the intent of some delegates was to gut the original legislation to make it unworkable so certain delegates could introduce separate bills that propose spending sprees in a piecemeal approach. Since Legislation No. 0116-20 was passed, Legislation No. 0132-20 was introduced and quickly approved and that resolution was quickly sent to the Office of the President and Vice President. We strongly caution the Council not to treat the $714 million in CARES Act funding as unrestricted spending for pet projects,” stated President Nez.

It’s important to note that CARES Act money must be used with the strictest application possible since these funds come from a federal source, and do not originate from the Tribe’s General Fund. Proper transparent use of these federal dollars is paramount to the Nez-Lizer Administration. It is also important to have the approvals for the use of the funds to be expeditious.

“I question the actions of the Council to remove language from the bill that would have provided a method to expedite the use of funds, especially when we are faced with a pending deadline in December to use the funds. Instead, they reincorporated the bureaucratic review process and additional requirements related to bidding, which will slow the process of completing projects,” stated Vice President Lizer.

President Nez and Vice President Lizer said there are issues that have to be worked out including the plan for the second round of CARES Act funding totaling approximately $113 million. Overall, the Navajo Nation received just over $714 million through the CARES Act.

The Nez-Lizer Administration proposes to expend the CARES Act funding for:

· Expenditure of $300 Million for water infrastructure and agriculture projects
o Adequate plumbing of Navajo homes are necessary to provide clean water for hygiene and household use to combat COVID-19
o Agricultural project are needed to promote self-sufficiency and economic development
· Expenditure of $150 Million for powerline and solar infrastructure
o An adequate source of power and energy of Navajo homes are needed to electrify water infrastructure, refrigeration, telephone, telehealth, etc.
· Expenditure of $50 Million for Broadband/Telecommunication
o Adequate telecommunication and broadband systems for Navajo communities are needed to communicate effectively
· Expenditure of $50 Million for scholarships to assist Navajo students entering the health care and public safety fields
· Expenditure of $60 Million to help Navajo businesses, and promote economic development
· Expenditure of $20 Million to address housing needs on the Navajo Nation

· Expend the remaining amount for additional chapter projects and direct aid for the Navajo people

President Nez stated that approximately 3,000 people voiced their support for the expenditure plan put forth by the Nez-Lizer Administration because it is the most comprehensive plan that will benefit all Navajo Nation residents and first responders.

President Nez expressed his gratitude to the Navajo people who took the initiative to voice their support stating, “Your voices have been heard. The voices of our Navajo people is a powerful way to get our leaders to act. Despite some questionable amendments approved by the Council, we are now in a position to move forward in working with Speaker Seth Damon, Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne, and others to utilize the CARES Act funds to help our frontline workers, our Navajo people, and to continue being proactive in preparations for any potential new waves of the coronavirus. We are very thankful to Council Delegates Edmund Yazzie, Edison Wauneka, Herman M Daniels, Jamie Henio, Kee Allen Begay Jr., Paul Begay, Pernell Halona, and Rickie Nez for the sponsorship of the legislation and for listening to the voices of the Navajo people.”

”It’s critical that the Navajo people hold all of their elected leaders accountable including chapter officials, members of the Navajo Nation Council, and the Office of the President and Vice President. We call upon the Navajo Nation Council members to work in good faith on the remainder of the funding. Our Navajo people are adamant in their desire for us to work together,” stated Vice President Lizer.

The Nez-Lizer Administration thanks the 24th Navajo Nation Council and the Navajo people for supporting Legislation No. 0116-20. President Nez and Vice President Lizer look forward to working with the Nation’s leaders on the remaining CARES Act funds.

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