TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation is receiving $1.8 billion in COVID-19 recovery funds as part of an historic investment in Indian Country through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act.
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner’s proposed spending plan for the funds will provide every Cherokee citizen with a total of $2,000 in direct relief assistance, allocating $1,000 each year for two years, while also bolstering the tribe’s mental health and wellness initiatives to help citizens recover from the impacts of the global pandemic, assisting Cherokee-owned small businesses, reinforcing tribal health care services, improving infrastructure, and supporting education, housing, job training and more for Cherokee families.
The American Rescue Plan Act, or “ARPA,” provides a $20 billion set aside for tribal governments under the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund or (“FRF”) to help turn the tide of the pandemic, address the economic fallout, and build a strong foundation for recovery. This includes supporting immediate stabilization for households and businesses in Indian Country. An additional $12 billion in funds for tribal governments is also being set aside through Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Justice and other agencies.
The Cherokee Nation will begin launching applications for its Respond, Recover and Rebuild COVID-19 assistance using FRF funds through the tribe’s online Gadugi Portal. Applications for direct assistance are expected to be online in June, but citizens are encouraged to register for the Gadugi Portal now to ease the sign-up process later.
“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,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “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.”
According to the U.S. Treasury, the $20 billion FRF set aside for tribes is 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.
“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.
The spending plan Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner are proposing to the Council of the Cherokee Nation will not only provide a total of $2,000 in direct assistance to every Cherokee Nation citizen within the next two years, but will also dedicate substantial resources to support tribal health care services and improve mental health, wellness, and substance abuse recovery efforts for Cherokee citizens, many of whom have struggled under the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year.
“As we put our best effort forward in overcoming this horrible virus, we must remember the toll the pandemic has taken not just on our physical health over the past year, but on our mental well-being,” said Deputy Chief Warner. “Chief Hoskin and I are committed to using these new federal resources to address these issues. The pandemic has been overwhelming, stressful, and in many instances, it has isolated our families and our communities away from the fellowship we love and need as Cherokee people. Investing additional resources will help our communities cope with the impacts of the pandemic in healthy ways and help us in overcoming the hurdles that remain in the wake of COVID-19.”
Another portion of the funds will provide much-needed support to economic development throughout the reservation. This includes support for job training and small business programs with an emphasis on rebuilding the economy and training Cherokees who became unemployed due to the pandemic to re-enter the job market.
Included in the plan is $80 million for a new initiative to erase poverty barriers, called “a-sv-dlv-i,” the Cherokee word for “bridge.” According to Chief Hoskin, programs under a-sv-dlv-i will be designed to knock down 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.”
Though the tribe’s spending plan is in its early stages, Chief Hoskin said the new Respond, Recover and Rebuild proposal being provided to the Council will be carried out over a total three-year timeframe, with additional dollars being earmarked for education, housing, and infrastructure needs of Cherokee families.
Key components of the proposal, on a percentage basis, include:
- 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 Council will consider the spending resolution at its Executive and Finance Committee and special council meeting scheduled for May 27. The plan, which can be amended by the Principal Chief and the Council from time to time through the normal budget appropriation process is also subject to the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Additional ARPA funds totaling more than $300 million designated under federal law for health initiatives will also be used for health construction initiatives, including among other projects behavioral health facilities and a new hospital. Chief Hoskin will present health care construction plans to the Council later in the year.
Cherokee Nation citizens are encouraged to register for the tribe’s new Gadugi Portal, a centralized database that will be vital to citizens as they apply for future tribal programs and services, including COVID-19 relief offered through the tribe’s upcoming Respond, Recover and Rebuild initiatives. Through the portal, citizens can manage or update their essential information with the tribe and connect with many Cherokee Nation departments. They will also use the online portal to apply for RRR assistance once the applications are available.
The portal can be accessed at https://gadugiportal.cherokee.org.