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Relief funds approved for Navajo Nation tribe members

Coverage of tribal natural resources is supported in part by Catena Foundation

The Navajo Nation’s tribal council has voted to send $2,000 checks to each qualified adult and $600 for each child using $557 million in federal coronavirus relief funds.

The council’s vote to send the checks to about 350,000 tribal members was approved Thursday by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

Wednesday’s 18-2 vote during a special session of the tribe’s lawmaking body will tap some of the approximately $2.1 billion the tribe is receiving from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act. The payments will be automatically sent to tribal members living on or off the reservation who applied for relief funds under a previous round of hardship assistance payments.

“It has been over 8 months since President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act and our Navajo people should not suffer another day without knowing how their government will assist them as they suffer from grief, mental health and financial hardship,” Council Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty said in a statement.

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

“A second allocation of hardship assistance payments ... will allow our relatives to purchase essential winter supplies like gasoline, firewood, and food now,” Crotty said.

Also Thursday, Nez approved $300 checks for tribal residents age 60 and older who previously showed they needed extra assistance. The checks will come from nearly $16 million in remaining money the tribe has from relief funds approved by former President Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, a Council committee met to consider how to spend $1.2 billion in virus relief funds. They discussed spending the money on a large number of infrastructure projects and on $207 million in payments Nez had agreed to provide.

Nez will have 10 days after formally receiving the legislation to veto or sign it.

Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.