Tribal officials report progress on CARES Act projects on Navajo Nation
This story was produced as a joint project led by Nathan O'Neal and Colton Shone, participants in the 2020 National Fellowship, a program of USC Annenberg's Center for Health Journalism.
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —Months after receiving more than $714 million in CARES Act money, Navajo Nation tribal officials said they’re finally seeing progress on projects that’ll help minimize the impacts of COVID-19.
More than a hundred homes on Navajo land have recently been connected to the electrical grid and there are plans to connect hundreds more.
“You'll start seeing the cranes, the heavy equipment moving in on those projects that have been there for a while. Great minds have collaborated and thought about it and put their pencil to the test and here we are having to spend all that money before December,” said Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer.
The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is spearheading several projects including $13.8 million for power lines, $24.7 million to increase electrical grid capacity, and $18.6 million for wastewater projects.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez recently discussed other projects in the works.
“One-hundred thirty million dollars for water projects and that's for drinking water, that's for livestock and the needs for water,” President Nez said.
The federal government requires that all CARES Act funds be used by the end of the year despite the delay in getting the money in the first place.
“We do have a bill in congress to extend the money, to extend the deadline, but it's just sitting there, so right now we're going to use December 30th as the deadline,” Nez said.
Many of these early projects are ones that are close to existing infrastructure. The big reason for this is because projects need to be “shovel ready” if they’re going to meet the deadline set by the federal government.
That means people living in especially remote parts of the Navajo Nation may be waiting a while to see progress at their doorsteps.
[This story was originally published by KOB4]