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Navajo Leaders Tap COVID-19 Relief For More Than 200 Electrical Grid Connections

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More than 220 homes on the Navajo Nation were recently connected to the electrical grid for the first time. The tribe tapped federal COVID-19 relief funds for the project. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority began its Light Up Navajo pilot project last year connecting hundreds of homes to the grid. Navajo officials allocated nearly $43 million in CARES Act funding for power lines and electrical grid capacity upgrades. They eventually want to bring electricity to more than 500 families by the end of the year. The tribe’s solar energy program also received more than $35 million.

Tens of millions from the federal COVID fund are also being used for water projects on the Navajo Nation along with expanded wireless and broadband access.

"We are very grateful to all of the NTUA crews and management for moving quickly to move forward with projects that will provide more electrical power, water resources, and internet access for our communities," says Navajo President Jonathan Nez. "We are hopeful that our people will have access to electricity and water to help minimize the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic."

In all, the tribe received nearly $715 million from the CARES Act. Most of the money has been earmarked, but leaders have until Dec. 30, 2020 to spend the remaining $176 million.

According to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, more than 15,000 households on the reservation aren’t connected to the grid.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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