Navajo Nation - Office of the President and Vice President
On Monday, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer presented the State of the Navajo Nation Address, on the opening day of the 24th Navajo Nation Council’s Winter Council Session. The address was conducted virtually from the Office of the President and Vice President in Window Rock, Arizona due to COVID-19 restrictions that limit in-person attendance.
President Nez provided an update on the Executive Branch’s ongoing work to fully implement the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. On January 4, the Nez-Lizer Administration approved $557 million of the Nation’s $2 billion American Rescue Plan Act allocation to provide direct relief for the Navajo people, to help mitigate the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Office of the Controller continues to process over 16,000 requests for changes of address and thousands of new applications that are being submitted daily. The financial relief payments are expected to be issued in early February.
President Nez and Vice President Lizer called on the Council to expedite the approval of American Rescue Plan Act funds for infrastructure development and improvements, which is included in Legislation No. 0257-21 for water, electrical, broadband, and housing initiatives.
“We have 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 people and for future generations. We need the Council to act quickly, by approving the infrastructure funding proposals in Legislation No. 0257-21. The Navajo Nation received the first allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds nearly 8 months ago and now the legislation is on hold for up to 60 days. If this pace continues, it might take one year before the funds are ready to be implemented. We have to move quicker to get these improvements started and completed within the federal timelines,” said President Nez.
The report also states that the Council and the Executive Branch have held multiple public meetings and work sessions. Executive Branch employees and technical experts have been meeting daily and working with Indian Health Service, enterprises, and other professionals to plan and prioritize projects for water, electricity, broadband, housing, and other necessities.
“The proposals contained in Legislation No. 0257-21 are prioritized based on the readiness of each project in terms of the completion of preliminary requirements and clearances, the availability of resources, and the federal timeline to expend the American Rescue Plan Act funds. If leaders begin to remove projects that are construction ready and replace them with ones that are not, we will not only delay these improvements even more, but we will also make it much more difficult to meet the federal deadline to use the funds,” President Nez added.
The leaders 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 start of the pandemic.
“We worked with the Council and we successfully met the federal deadline and obligated the entire $714 million allocation for hardship assistance and long-term improvements. Our 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 received electricity, water lines, water cistern systems, bathroom additions, and other life-changing improvements. We know that it can be done successfully because we’ve worked together and got it done before,” stated Vice President Lizer.
President Nez also stated that once the remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds are allocated, legislation will be re-introduced seeking support to allocate $50 million from the Síhasin Fund for scholarship opportunities for students. Legislation was first introduced in 2019, but did not receive approval.
“We know that far too many students are having to tap into student loans and when they graduate, they have to spend many years paying back that debt. This forces many of our people to hold off on building or purchasing a new home and achieving many other milestones in life, so they can afford to make monthly student loan payments. During the last campaign season, when all of our current leaders were out seeking support, many of our people challenged all candidates to do more for our students by providing more scholarship opportunities. We have to do this together to help our students,” stated President Nez.
The State of the Navajo Nation Address also included updates on veterans housing and policy, establishing healing centers to help alcohol and substance abuse, public safety updates, missing persons, support for the Indian Child Welfare Act, state legislative sessions, and voting rights.
The 24th Navajo Nation Council voted 19-0 to accept the report. The State of the Navajo Nation Address is available online at: https://www.opvp.navajo-nsn.gov/From-the-Office/State-of-the-Navajo-Nation. The Nez-Lizer Administration thanks the 24th Navajo Nation Council, Navajo Nation Chief Justice JoAnn B. Jayne, chapter officials, and others for their support.