Cherokee Nation develops plan to spend $332 million to help with coronavirus recovery

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) — Tribal leaders say the Cherokee Nation is implementing a plan to use a portion of the funds from the CARES Act to help in its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, the Cherokee Nation announced a $332 million COVID-19 Respond, Recover and Rebuild spending plan.

Officials say the plan will offset unbudgeted expenses due to the pandemic, protect employees from layoffs, add safety measures to infrastructure, and increase services for citizens.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of all of us, including here in the Cherokee Nation and within our tribal communities. Faced with the worst crisis of our generation, we reacted and quickly adjusted to make tough but necessary decisions, taking steps to stabilize a more than $100 million revenue shortfall sustained from COVID-19 efforts,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “We also took bold and innovative measures to help our citizens and employees recover by ensuring they have a stable job and income. We strove to make the Cherokee Nation’s infrastructure safer, and we did everything in our power to offer relief to Cherokee citizens through our vital programs, allowing us to persevere through this trial, heal together, and rebuild as a stronger tribe and community. The COVID-19 Respond, Recover and Rebuild spending plan is the crucial next step in our approach to recovering and rebuilding the great Cherokee Nation.”

Approximately $100 million of the spending plan is allocated to restoring operations, while another $100 million will pay for safety measures that allow employees to safely go back to work.

The Cherokee Nation says it will also invest in its IT infrastructure so that it is as prepared as possible should there be a second wave of COVID-19.

Officials say another $100 million will be invested in community programs to help citizens with their own recovery needs.

“During this crisis, it was our mission to help our citizens and communities remain safe and receive the aid they needed during such a trying time,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “Together, we will begin to move forward by expanding tribal programs, services and grants. This spirit of helping Cherokees is in our nature, just as it was with our ancestors.”

The tribe says it will create grants that will assist community organizations with their response to COVID-19.

Another $32 million is earmarked to complete health projects, including the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation and Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center, and potentially establish a future epidemiological center.

“Congress was clear that all funds provided from the tribal set-aside of the Coronavirus Relief Fund must be used for necessary expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A ‘per capita’ scheme – which would split the funding equally between all citizens – is an illegal use of the funds. The funds must be tied to costs incurred due to the public health emergency the Nation is facing,” Attorney General Sara Hill said.

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