Cherokee Nation chief signs legislation to give citizens $2,000 in COVID relief

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – Every Cherokee Nation member will receive a $2,000 lump sum in COVID-19 relief.

Principal Chief Chuck Hosking Jr. signed tribal legislation to give all 392,832 Cherokee Nation citizens $2,000 in COVID relief.

The relief money was originally planned to be split into two $1,000 payments, one provided this year and the second provided next year, but Tribal Councilors Mike Shambaugh and Joe Deere asked that the legislation be amended to one payment, saying citizens preferred a lump sum of $2,000 in COVID assistance.

The Council of the Cherokee Nation passed the amended resolution with a 16-1 vote during a special meeting shortly before Hoskin signed it into law. District 3 Councilor Wes Nofire was the only dissenting vote.

“The Cherokee people are still hurting from the impact of COVID-19, health care and the economy and I appreciate those Council member leaders who came to us and said we should do a lump sum payment to extend our citizens relief,” Hoskin said. “In this resolution, we will appropriate funds out of the $1.8 billion to cover the individual assistance payments to citizens and adopt a broad spending framework with categories as a place to start which can be modified as we move forward.”

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Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Treasurer Tralynna Sherrill Scott and Secretary of State Tina Glory Jordan joined Tribal Councilors to sign legislation Thursday that will provide a $2,000 lump sum COVID relief individual assistance payment to all 392,832 Cherokee Nation citizens.

The COVID relief assistance money used for the lump sum payments is from $1.8 billion in relief funds provided to the Cherokee Nation by President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

“The Cherokee Nation has already received its entire allocation of federal ARPA funds from the U.S. Treasury. With those funds now available to us, and with the support of the Council, we will not waste any time in helping our Cherokee families with the $2,000 payment in relief funds they need to recover and rebuild from this devastating pandemic,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “We are committed to working with the Council of the Cherokee Nation to ensure our families, our communities, and our government services, which are vital to the Cherokee people, can continue the important work of rebuilding so that the great Cherokee Nation can become even stronger and healthier than we were before. This funding and the important investments we will make, especially the direct assistance to citizens, is an important step in this recovery process, and it will bolster the Cherokee Nation for many generations to come.”

Cherokee Nation leaders put together a COVID relief spending plan called Respond, Recover and Rebuild.

The spending plan also aims to bolster mental health and wellness initiatives by helping citizens recover from the pandemic’s impact, assisting Cherokee-owned small businesses, reinforcing tribal health care services, improving infrastructure and supporting education, housing, job training and more for Cherokee families.

“Just more than a year ago the Cherokee Nation, like other tribal nations across the country, was suddenly faced with the worst public health crisis we have seen in generations. Through the Cherokee Nation Respond, Recover and Rebuild spending plan implemented in May of 2020, we were able to react quickly to stabilize our government services and tribal businesses while protecting our citizens, our employees, and our Cherokee communities through millions of dollars in direct financial assistance and critical support,” Hoskin said. “Cherokee Nation called on Congress to provide even more funding to Indian Country, and we were successful. Now, with the infusion of $1.8 billion of additional COVID-19 funds under ARPA’s Fiscal Recovery Fund, my administration will work hand in hand with the Council of the Cherokee Nation to implement a plan that provides $1,000 in immediate and direct assistance to Cherokee citizens who continue to be impacted by the virus, and a second $1,000 payment to citizens in 2022, while also ensuring the Cherokee Nation is able to heal together and rebuild to be a stronger tribe with stronger and healthier Cherokee families and communities. This funding is an important step in our ongoing efforts to recover and rebuild.”

Cherokee citizens can use the tribe’s online Gadugi Portal to apply for Respond, Recover and Rebuild COVID-19 assistance using FRF funds. Direct assistance applications are expected to be online in June. Tribe officials encourage citizens to register for the Gadugi Portal now to ease the sign-up process later. The portal can be accessed at gadugiportal.cherokee.org.

The $1.8 billion going to the Cherokee Nation is part of $20 billion set aside in ARPA for tribal governments under the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (FRF). The funds are to be used to turn the tide of the pandemic and build a foundation for recovery.

Cherokee nation

U.S. Treasury officials said the $20 billion FRF going to tribes is intended to “replace revenue lost by tribal governments, strengthen support for vital public services, help retain jobs, and address other challenges faced by tribal nations in the U.S. as a result of the pandemic,” according to the news release.

“By investing an additional $1.8 billion into the Cherokee Nation’s COVID-19 Respond, Recover and Rebuild spending plan, we can continue to address the public health and economic challenges that have contributed to unequal impacts of the pandemic on tribal communities throughout the country,” said Treasurer Tralynna Sherrill Scott.

Part of the $1.8 billion going to the Cherokee Nation will be used to support economic development throughout the reservation, including support for job training and small business programs with a focus on rebuilding the economy and training Cherokees who became unemployed because of the pandemic to re-enter the job market.

The plan also has an $80 million initiative called “a-sv-dlv-i,” the Cherokee word for “bridge.”

A-sv-dlv-i programs will be designed to eliminate barriers to self-sufficiency created or worsened by the pandemic.

“This plan is a comprehensive approach to stabilizing our government and businesses as we continue addressing the COVID pandemic,” said Council Deputy Speaker Victoria Vazquez, one of the resolution’s sponsors. “But, it is also a way to make generational impact for all Cherokee citizens. ARPA challenges us to respond to the health and economic impacts of COVID. This extension of our Respond, Recover and Rebuild plan enables us to do so in a way that will help Cherokees from all walks of life, near and far and far into the future.”

Respond, Recover and Rebuild is planned to be carried out over three years. Additional dollars are earmarked for the education, housing and infrastructure needs of Cherokee families.

The following are the proposal’s key components:

  • 43.09% – COVID impact payments to every Cherokee citizen, irrespective of age or residency ($1,000 per citizen via the Gadugi Portal annually for two years)
  • 4.39% – a-sv-dlv-i Anti-Poverty Initiative)
  • 2.74% – Cherokee Nation Payroll & Hazard Pay
  • 0.27% – COVID Vaccine Education & Outreach
  • 4.39% – Cherokee Nation Workplace Health & Safety Improvements
  • .82% – Food security
  • 6.59% – Housing / Quarantine
  • .22% – PPE
  • 1.1% – Community Partners / CCO
  • 5.49% – Job Training / Small Business / Economic Impact
  • 6.59% – Education / Language / Higher Education Relief & Assistance
  • 9.6% – Government Revenue Replacement
  • 7.13% – Health Infrastructure / Behavioral Health / Wellness Programs
  • 3.18% –  Transportation and Infrastructure (including roads and water)
  • 3.57% – Broadband infrastructure
  • .82% – Financial administration of ARPA Funds

The spending resolution will be considered during the Council’s Executive and Finance Committee and special council meeting on May 27.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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