TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation Treasurer released the tribe’s COVID-19 Respond, Recover, Rebuild Spending Report on Thursday, showing the number of ways the tribe has served citizens through job and food security, economic relief, health care, housing and connectivity during the pandemic.
The Cherokee Nation received $411 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury for Coronavirus Relief assistance. Other federal COVID-19 funding received was spent as prescribed by each funding agency, such as USDA food program, health or transportation needs.
“The Cherokee Nation Finance Office has worked closely with Administration and the Council of the Cherokee Nation to ensure that our relief dollars helped our Cherokee citizens stay safe, stay working and had the basic essential needs such as food, shelter, health care, and clothing to get through this pandemic,” Treasurer Tralynna Sherrill Scott said. “We are extremely proud to have served more than 130,000 citizens with direct assistance using the Coronavirus Relief Fund and thousands more of our citizens through other essential programs and services we’ve offered.”
The Cherokee Nation provided relief by dedicating $177 million for jobs so that employees did not miss a paycheck or experience layoffs in the past year. Another $54 million went directly to individual citizens for emergency relief, clothing assistance, those with disabilities, utilities and other needs.
The Cherokee Nation also invested $38 million in PPE and safety supplies, including setting up its own N95 and N99 mask production. Once operational, the Cherokee Nation will be the only manufacturer of N99 masks in the United States. An additional $22 million was invested in public health infrastructure needs such as, new employee health clinics, expanded domestic violence shelters, and community water line and water treatment improvements.
“We went where the needs were and the needs were all over, and different for different communities,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “There was an ongoing need for PPE manufacturing, so we are having Cherokees produce them in the Cherokee Nation. Other facilities will be used for food security efforts. As we continue the largest emergency food distribution program in the history of the Cherokee Nation we need strategic locations to store and distribute food. Other locations are a way to spread staff and the citizens they serve out through social distancing.”
Another important way the Cherokee Nation is helping communities and addressing needs through the COVID-19 pandemic is by addressing the digital divide throughout the reservation. The Cherokee Nation sent over $19 million in Technology Grants to students to help them purchase necessary equipment for distance learning. The Nation spent an additional $27 million toward improving connectivity, including providing more than 9,000 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots that included a year of service to Cherokee Nation citizens with no internet connectivity, as well as making investments to improve telework and telehealth capabilities.
“Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll also be wrapping up the deployment of 35, Cherokee Connect drive up locations, where folks can pull into a parking lot, remain in their vehicles to socially distance and connect to the Internet,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “These sites are strategically placed to make them easily accessible in many rural parts of the reservation.”
The Cherokee Nation also launched the largest emergency food distribution effort in the tribe’s history which served more than 112,000 tribal citizens with boxes of foods during more than 300 food events held in the Cherokee Nation. More than 70,000 ready-made meals were also delivered to Cherokee elders.
The tribe spent $27 million to address food security through the pandemic, including the construction of five new food distribution centers, a meat processing facility, and additional refrigerated trucks. The tribe made other investments in public health, career services, community organizations, housing and economic relief.
A Respond, Recover and Rebuild website to house the spending report for Cherokee citizens will be available online next week.