The COVID-19 global pandemic has been hard on us all, but Cherokee Nation did not sit back while the pandemic threatened our health and our economy. With these efforts, the past year has been challenging, transformative, and finally, hopeful.
In March 2020, the U.S. federal government passed the CARES Act to help individuals, businesses, state and local governments, and tribes, including Cherokee Nation, respond to the pandemic emergency. Cherokee Nation has responsibly spent more than $410 million of our CARES Act funding through our Respond, Recover and Rebuild spending plan.
Cherokee Nation used our relief dollars on community needs like housing, food security and utility bill assistance. We helped tribal citizens meet basic needs like food, shelter, health care and clothing while the pandemic continues to pose a danger. We invested in protecting our workers from layoffs, helping Cherokee elders stay safe at home, and helping Cherokee students safely continue their educations through distance learning.
We had to move quickly to get these investments to our communities, but we also want to ensure maximum transparency and accountability to the Cherokee people. That’s why the Cherokee Nation Treasurer recently released the COVID-19 Respond, Recover, Rebuild Spending Report. It can be found at www.respondrecoverrebuild.com.
The new website is a centralized information source for Cherokees to ensure that their tribal government is transparently and effectively managing coronavirus recovery funds. It shows a breakdown of spending and the number of ways tribal citizens have received assistance. We are proud to have delivered direct assistant to more than 130,000 citizens and helped thousands more through essential programs that we’ve created or expanded with CARES Act funds.
As we get more Cherokees vaccinated and begin to put this pandemic behind us, we will continue to ensure financial transparency and open communication with our citizens. Cherokees have the right to know how relief dollars are being used.
I applaud the Cherokee Nation’s financial team for their resiliency, adaptability, and professionalism. Despite the turmoil across northeast Oklahoma and the globe over the past year, Cherokee Nation has remained in good financial shape.
Other highlights from the past year include:
- $177 million for jobs so that employees did not miss a paycheck or experience layoffs in the past year.
- $54 million to individual citizens for emergency relief, clothing assistance, utilities and other needs.
- $38 million for PPE and safety supplies, including developing Cherokee Nation’s N95 and N99 mask production. Once operational, the Cherokee Nation will be the only manufacturer of N99 masks in the United States.
- $22 million for public health infrastructure like new employee health clinics, expanded domestic violence shelters, and community water line and water treatment improvements.
- $19 million in technology grants to help students purchase necessary equipment for distance learning.
- $27 million toward improving broadband connectivity, including sending more than 9,000 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots with a year of free service to Cherokee Nation citizens with no internet connectivity.
- $27 million to address food security, including the construction of five new food distribution centers, a meat processing facility and additional refrigerated trucks.
The federal CARES Act and Cherokee Nation’s Respond, Recover and Rebuild Plan has allowed us to make rapid investments in what helps the most Cherokees. We have and will continue to act urgently yet deliberately in how we use tribal resources, and the spending report reflects that. We will continue to provide detailed information on the www.respondrecoverrebuild.com website about our efforts to protect elders, families, jobs, education, and the health of our people, until this crisis is over.
Chuck Hoskin Jr.