As Cherokee Nation responds to COVID-19, our number one priority is the health and safety of our citizens and the communities in which they live. But, I want you to know that we are committed to getting federal assistance for both the Nation and individual citizens during this unprecedented crisis.
I’m proud of the efforts of our Government Relations team as we have pushed, along with leaders across Indian Country, for tribes to share in the funds Congress approved in recent weeks for health care, the economy and government programs and services.
Congress approved $8 billion for economic stabilization so that Cherokee Nation and other tribes can potentially offset the massive losses resulting from the closure of gaming operations and other businesses as well as the impacts on tribal budgets. Congress also approved $2 billion for Indian Health Services, the federal agency that primarily funds Cherokee Nation’s health system, and other aid such as housing, small businesses and nutrition to benefit tribal citizens.
I want you to know that we will do everything in our power to bring these federal dollars to Cherokee Nation. My administration’s COVID-19 response is guided by medical science, facts and compassion. This is why we have taken swift and decisive action to close facilities, send workers home with pay and focus only on mission-critical government functions such as healthcare and emergency food supplies. But, these actions also come at a great financial cost to the Cherokee Nation.
Fortunately, we are in a strong financial position, guided by our Council, our Treasurer and our business leadership. But, we will make clear to the government of the United States that Cherokee Nation must get it’s fair share of federal spending so that we can get back on track when this crisis subsides. Irrespective of the amount of federal funding received to recover from COVID-19, I want the Cherokee people to know that we will face a lot of challenges ahead to our businesses and our budgets. But, we will face them together and I will keep you posted.
Finally, even though we have reason to be concerned about financial matters during this time, let’s remember the most important thing: slowing the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives. Cherokees, by nature, run towards a crisis and gather up with friends and loved ones in times of distress. In this crisis, we need to do the opposite. We can ease the strain on our health care workers, keep keep fewer people from getting sick and even save lives if we stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary to get out.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest crisis our Nation has faced in generations. But, we are a people of grit and determination. We have overcome much worse in our long history. My fellow Cherokees, we can do this. Cherokee Nation is here for you. We’re all in this together.
Chuck Hoskin Jr.