More than 30 million people have applied for unemployment and Congressional lawmakers chose not to reach an agreement in time to extend the $600 weekly unemployment payments, which expired last week. Many Native American families were already struggling with economic hardships pre-pandemic. Now, hoping for the best while preparing for the worst has never been so crucial.
On today's newscast Patrice Kunesh, Standing Rock, gives tips on how to stabilize your family's budget while becoming more self-sufficient. She's done policy work in the past but recently she's been focused on creating inclusive economic systems for Native communities. She's the Founder & Director of Peȟíŋ Haha Consulting.
Here are some of her comments.
"Well, we're in this for a long haul Patty. The numbers from last week really do not look so good. We have now 30 million Americans on unemployment and another 1.43 million filed just last week. We know that this is the highest unemployment rate in over a hundred years and small businesses have been decimated and we just seen a rash of catastrophic, compounding problems. It's really wreaked havoc on individual and family budgets as well. So as we see this unemployment jobless rate grow every week, we're also at this benefit cliff. As we mentioned the $600 supplemental federal unemployment benefit ended last Friday. And that was a tremendous benefit to millions and millions of Americans. So now we're really at a turning point, a tipping point in our economy."
"Last week Jay Powell spoke and I think he was very, very real and very pragmatic. He said, and I quote, 'Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.' And this really means that we're in this the long haul and we're going to have to adjust to this new financial reality. And for Native people, we have already faced some very serious economic hardships, despite Indian country being one of the most distinctively important pieces of the American economy. Native tribes, Native governments employed over 700,000 people pre-pandemic. So not only are we seeing the toppling of individual incomes, we're seeing the toppling of real community stability. So we really need to be careful. We need to be very pragmatic and we need to be planful about how we get through this both individually as a family and for our communities."
"I do believe Congress will eventually figure something out. You know, the Republicans were promoting a $3 trillion recovery package and they really wanted to continue this income stabilization. They wanted also to provide some other benefits for businesses and the Republicans are saying that's too generous. That's just not necessary. But when we think about individuals not being able to make rent or pay the mortgage in June and July here we have August. So what do we need to do in Indian country and historically Native Americans have really been living on the edge. I myself have lived on the margins with public assistance and public health and public housing. So when we look at Native American unemployment rates, we really don't have a good, solid number. That data just isn't telling us exactly what's happening to, to Native Americans."
"We do know that Native Americans both on and off the reservation have suffered disproportionately high unemployment. So what this means and I really think that it applies to all of us when we look at this great economic dip I think we need to look at both being planful, as I said earlier, and also look at this for the long term. A lot of us have not been able to budget or to save money. And what I find to be some of the most easiest things to do is what I call 'stash the cash'. If we no longer have an income or income replacement, either through the tribe or the state or federal government, I think we really need to do is take a look at where we're spending money. Now, the interesting thing is that even though businesses are closed spending is up because we have online opportunities."
"There are four things I think we could possibly do to help stabilize us for the long run, one is to cancel something, cancel a credit card or cancel a subscription. I know with online streaming, we have lots of music or video TV channel subscriptions taking that off the plate could really be a game changer. Obviously credit cards have high interest rates and if we don't need them get rid of them, I think we need to also establish some spending numbers. If we can't meet rent, if we can't pay for groceries, if we don't have our cell phones available to us, we need to figure out, where we can make those adjustments. So to look at these in general categories, rather than specific numbers, I think that helps us, generally cope and make these adjustments."
"If we can create an emergency fund and that's just a little bit of money set aside every month, that can help with medical bills or buying diapers or run to the grocery store for a gallon of milk. Anything matters obviously would like to have a more long-term reserve, but anything matters. And then lastly, like I said, save the money you're not spending 'stash the cash,' the old adages, you know, 'a penny saved is a penny earned'. And oftentimes we're not really conscious of the dollars and cents that add up that go out of our wallet every single day."
"You mentioned the food and that's one thing, obviously we were very dependent on grocery stores but if we can take advantage of the summer, go to the farmer's market or grow a garden, you know, people are resorting to, I won't say old fashioned, but they're looking to themselves to say, what can I do? It's a bit more about being self-determined. And I know many reservation communities and urban Native communities that are planting community gardens. And that actually is a good way, a healthy way of getting outside, which is so much better than staying cooped up inside but also really reaping the rewards literally of what you've planted and the more you're able to be resourceful and planful looking to the future, I think it helps emotionally and gives us a big lift but it creates resiliency. And the possibility that we're going to get this through this together, and we will but it's going to take some time and it's going to take some cooperation."
"You're so right on Patty and it really is about our priorities, what really matters to us most. And when we look at the need for transportation and food we put those first, we make sure we have our basic needs cared for, then we can go on to help and support others and really look forward to a good, healthy future."
"Once we learned of Lewis' his death, I believe on July 17th, we quickly saw the Natives in Congress share their thoughts and the impact he made on them. More outspoken ones were Congresswoman Deb Haaland and Congressman Tom Cole, both shared this detail of their experience working with Lewis and kind of what they took from his leadership. Because like you mentioned, he was a long serving Congressman who impacted arguably a lot of people around the world."
"It was neat because we just didn't hear from elected officials in this case, like Tom Cole did say some great things, which is really neat cause he's a longtime Republican but we heard from a group of Native youth. And it's always neat to hear that perspective from our young people and what people across the country that are in these leadership roles who have made an impact. And I believe the presidents of the UNITY Native youth organization got together and issued a powerful statement about Lewis and his actions, especially as a young person and how he handled life, alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. And what happened back when the Civil Rights was really pushed."
"The World Games is similar to the Olympics, it's just not as well known. They usually happen with international competition a year after the summer Olympic games. So pre-pandemic, it was scheduled for next summer, 2021 but because the Olympics rescheduled it's set for 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama."
"It features a lot of sports that aren't really featured in an Olympics. They're kind of unique, they're interesting, like for example, the tug of war, water, ski dance, some archery, a number of other sports. It's usually almost a two week event. So there's a lot of stuff happening and I believe lacrosse, which is kind of a news peg here. That's also featured."
"In late July we started to see talk about the Iroquois Nationals not being included in the coming World Games. And it seems silly for the team to not be included, especially with it being on the homelands and being in Turtle Island, United States. And there was a push on social media that caught fire of an older article that was published in March regarding the Nationals pushing to be included with the Olympics. The Olympics doesn't feature lacrosse right now but it sounds like they're leaning that way in 2028, I believe. And then people started talking about the World Games, why can't they compete in there. And people were confused, frustrated. And, I believe a former player started this petition, which I believe is around 48,000 in support of the team being included and this petition was only started a couple of weeks ago."
"The Nationals are a powerhouse program. I'm not the biggest lacrosse person. I wish I was more familiar with the game. I wish I could play but I do know the history. And if you can't really talk about lacrosse without recognizing the Nationals and the impact they've made throughout history and including the impact they've been playing on the indoor and outdoor world championships. So they're really good. They've beaten team USA. They've beaten team Canada. So they're not, they're not like some up and coming team. And they have power players who play professionally and are often acknowledged as the best of the group. So they definitely have the talent. And when the idea that the World Games weren't including them, people were wondering why. And recently the World Games with World Lacrosse issued a statement saying that they're looking at changing the format. It didn't really say that they were including the Nationals but I think it caught their attention because they were pretty quiet over the last few weeks about this, with this onslaught of social media wave, so for them to come out and say, they're looking, I think that's the right direction, we'll see what happens."
"One answer I was hoping to get was simply, why aren't the Haudenosaunee or similar nations included in the rule book? And I was looking at, well the World Games acknowledges the Iroquois Nationals on the website and explains how culturally rich lacrosse is to them and how they are the founders of the game but yet here we are and they don't have an invite, even though one could argue, they could probably take, definitely take top three, maybe even take first place."
Also in the newscast, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye has the latest numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in Indian Country.
The anchor and executive producer of the newscast is Patty Talahongva.