By John Christian Hopkins
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer delivered the annual State of the Nation address on the opening day of the council’s winter session.
Nez provided an update on the executive branch’s ongoing work to fully implement funding for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
On January 4, the Nez-Lizer administration approved $557 million of the nation’s $2 billion ARPA allocation to provide direct relief to the Navajo people, to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic. of ongoing COVID-19.
The Office of the Comptroller continues to process over 16,000 change of address requests and thousands of new requests that are submitted daily. Financial assistance payments are expected to be issued in early February.
The executive branch address was delivered virtually from the office of the president and vice president in Window Rock, Arizona, due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting in-person attendance.
Nez and Lizer called 24and The Board must expedite the approval of ARPA funds for infrastructure development and improvement, which is included in Legislation No. 0257-21 for water, power, broadband and lodging.
“We need to get the remaining funds allocated so we can move forward with the long-term improvements, the projects that will improve the quality of life for many of our fellow citizens and future generations,” Nez said. “We need the Council to act quickly, by approving the infrastructure financing proposals in law n° 0257-21. The Navajo Nation received the first allocation of funds from ARPA nearly 8 months ago and now the legislation is suspended for up to 60 days. If this pace continues, it may take a year before the funds are ready to be implemented. We need to act faster to get these improvements started and completed within federal timelines. »
The report also indicates that the Council and the executive branch held several public meetings and working sessions. Executive Branch employees and technical experts meet daily and work with the Indian Health Service, businesses and other professionals to plan and prioritize water, power, broadband, housing and sanitation projects. other necessities.
The proposals contained in Legislation No. 0257-21 are prioritized based on the readiness of each project in terms of meeting requirements and preliminary authorizations, availability of resources, and the federal schedule for spending. ARPA funds, Nez added.
“If leaders start removing projects that are ready for construction and replacing them with those that are not, not only will we delay those improvements even further, but we will also make it much more difficult to meet the federal deadline for use of funds,” says Nez.
Nez and Lizer also highlighted the Navajo Nation’s successful use and implementation of the $714 million in CARES Act funds, which were received in 2020 after the pandemic began.
“We worked with the board and successfully met the federal deadline and committed the full $714 million hardship relief and long-term enhancements allocation,” Lizer said.
Administration has been on the ground in communities such as Dilkon, Ganado, Kayenta, Tohatchi, Twin Lakes, Klagetoh, Greasewood, Tonalea/Red Lake and other areas where families have received electricity, mains water, water cistern systems, bathroom additions and other life-changing upgrades, he continued.
“We know it can be done successfully because we’ve worked together and we’ve done it before,” Lizer. noted
President Nez also said that once the remaining ARPA funds are allocated, legislation will be reintroduced to seek support to allocate $50 million from the Síhasin Fund for scholarship opportunities for students.
The legislation was first introduced in 2019, but was not approved.
“We know that far too many students have to dip into student loans and that once they graduate they have to spend many years paying off that debt. This forces many of our employees to put off building or buying a new home, and many other life milestones, so they can afford monthly student loan payments,” Nez said.
The Navajo State of the Nation Address also included updates on housing and veterans policy, the establishment of healing centers to help alcoholism and drug addiction, updates on public safety, missing persons, support for India’s Child Welfare Act, state legislative sessions and voting rights.
The 24th Council of the Navajo Nation voted 19-0 to accept the report.
The Navajo Nation State address is available online at: https://www.opvp.navajo-nsn.gov/From-the-Office/State-of-the-Navajo-Nation.