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Navajo Nation finalizes second round of hardship assistance payments for tribal members

Hardship Assistance Navajo
Office of the President and Vice President
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Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez (center left), Vice President Myron Lizer (center right) and other officials signed a resolution approving $557 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for hardship assistance payments for Navajo tribal members on Tue, Jan. 4, 2021.

Navajo Nation leaders have finalized a second wave of COVID-19 hardship assistance payments for tribal members. They hope it’ll alleviate the effects of the pandemic, which has hit the tribe especially hard.

President Jonathan Nez Tuesday signed the resolution approved by the Navajo Nation Council last week. It earmarks $557 million allocated to the tribe from the federal American Rescue Plan to provide $2,000 payments to enrolled adult tribal members and $600 for minors. It’s designed to help with expenses like mortgage and rent as well as groceries, fuel, utilities, firewood and other essentials.

Many tribal members and families have endured considerable hardship during the pandemic including homelessness, grief and financial trouble.

"We strongly urge our people to use the funds for essential items and services that will help protect and prepare your homes and families," said Nez in a press release. "We know that our elderly parents, grandparents, youth, students, veterans, and many others are in need of a hand up. The Omicron variant has been detected within our Nation. We shouldn’t panic, but all of our people must step up our efforts and use the hardship funds to help our elderly parents and grandparents, our children, and those with underlying health conditions."

In all, the Navajo Nation received more than $2 billion from the American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Joe Biden March 11, 2021.

It’s the second wave of hardship assistance payments for the tribe. In the middle of December, 7,500 checks remained unclaimed by tribal members who signed up for the program. They expired at the end of the year.

Last week, Navajo leaders also approved a separate measure to provide additional payments of 300 dollars for tribal members 60 years and older.

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.