The Navajo Nation announced Friday it has allocated the remaining $714 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds it received earlier this year.
The announcement by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Lizer and Vice President Myron Lizer’s administration includes nearly $50 million in CARES Act funding as part of a hardship relief plan that provides $1,500 each to qualifying tribal citizens 18 and older, according to a news release.
The tribe also approved $90 million to Navajo chapter houses.
In a statement, Nez said the hardship funds should be directed to elders and those most in need. He said the funds aren’t enough to help every enrolled citizen, but there could be an opportunity to increase the relief fund if Navajo chapters do not use the money allocated by the end of November.
“All Navajo Nation CARES Act funds have now been allocated, and the Office of the Controller now has the financial support to ensure accountability, compliance, and distribution of a majority of the Nation’s CARES Act dollars,” Nez said.
Navajo Nation citizens 18 and older by March 1 are eligible to receive up to $1,500, and $500 per person for citizens under the age of 18.
“Our recommendation to the Office of the Controller is to develop the criteria and application process so that elders and those living in remote areas without internet access are able to apply and that those in the most need of financial assistance be prioritized. This should not be a free-for-all distribution of funds,” Lizer said.
The Navajo Nation has reported 564 deaths related to the coronavirus as of Friday. The tribe has reported 10,632 positive cases since the start of the pandemic and 95,894 negative tests, according to the Navajo health department.
Of the $2 trillion CARES Act approved in March, $8 billion was put aside for tribal governments. Some tribes have distributed similar relief funds to individual citizens.
The CARES Act required tribes, along with state and local governments that received funds, to spend the money by the end of the year, prompting some tribal officials to call for an extension.