The global pandemic has heightened uncertainty and anxiety across the world. That is certainly the case here in northeast Oklahoma. Our families, neighborhoods and workplaces have been dramatically affected. Another group that has struggled during this pandemic is the community-based organizations that impact Cherokee Nation at the grassroots.
These organizations are a vital anchor for our families and for the health of our communities. Many of them are working tirelessly to help Cherokee citizens struggling with the impact of COVID-19. To make sure they can keep providing those services and make it through this difficult time, we plan to reinvest about $3.5 million in federal CARES Act dollars. We strategically lobbied the U.S. Congress for these funds and worked with our Council so that we can put them to work for Cherokee communities as part of our government’s “Respond, Rebuild and Recover” plan.
Through our Community and Cultural Outreach department, $3.5 million is now available to help Cherokee organizations. Eligible grantees include more than 50 Cherokee community organizations across our 14-county jurisdiction, as well as two dozen more at-large organizations across the United States. We’ve created three separate grant programs for operations, capital improvements and at-large organizations.
Operations grants will enable community groups that participate with our CCO department to fund budgeted operating costs impacted by the pandemic, such as utility bills. Operating grants can also offset the recent and future costs of fuel for grocery deliveries, as most of these organizations have assisted us with essential food programs over the past four months. With up to $20,000 available per community organization, these grants can also help pay for proper sanitizers, cleaners and equipment to make their facilities as safe as possible.
A capital improvements grant of up to $40,000 is also available to the same organizations with Cherokee Community Buildings. These capital grants, set aside for modifying or expanding community buildings, can be used to improve things like food pantries and refrigeration capabilities. Groups in places like the Hulbert community and Washington County are ready to use these improvements to provide healthy food choices for tribal citizens and serve as strategic food reserves for Cherokee Nation.
These investments will help community groups improve their COVID-19 response and expand their mission of service in this time of need. The grants will also help groups to become better prepared for the next emergency, whether it is a natural disaster or another dangerous virus.
Our CCO participating at-large Cherokee organizations, based in urban areas across the United States, typically do not own a building, so we have created a special $2,000 grant to assist those groups with hand sanitizer, masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment. At-large groups may also use the funds for other pandemic response, such as food distribution initiatives.
With an additional Community Partners Grant, we also plan to expand our collaborations with entities such as local first responders and nonprofit organizations across the region who have teamed up with Cherokee Nation to provide care, supplies and services over the past four months. These important partners have been essential in maximizing our pandemic response. In order to keep this collaboration strong, we will make a total of $250,000 available in aid to help these organizations replenish their resources.
COVID-19 remains a threat, and local community organizations are on the front lines. Within our reservation, they are doing an amazing job of helping us all stay healthy and safe, but they need our support to continue this critical work. Cherokee Nation is seizing this opportunity to respond, recover and rebuild and to do so at the grassroots level. My promise to you is that we will always be proactive in finding ways to serve our citizens and doing it safely.
Chuck Hoskin Jr.