The global COVID-19 pandemic has hit us all hard, but Cherokee Nation hasn’t sat back while the pandemic threatened our health and economy. With these efforts, the past year has been challenging, transformative, and ultimately hopeful.
In March 2020, the U.S. federal government passed CARES to help individuals, businesses, state and local governments, and tribes, including the Cherokee Nation, respond to the pandemic emergency. Cherokee Nation has responsibly spent more than $ 410 million of our CARES Act funds as part of our Response, Recover, and Recover spending plan.
Cherokee Nation used our funds to meet community needs such as housing, food security, and utility bill assistance. We have helped tribal people meet basic needs such as food, shelter, health care and clothing while the pandemic remains a threat. We have invested in protecting our employees from layoffs, helped Cherokee elders stay safe at home, and helped Cherokee students safely continue their education through distance learning.
We had to act quickly to get this investment into our communities, but we also want to ensure maximum transparency and accountability to the Cherokee people. It is for this reason that the Cherokee Nation Treasurer recently released the COVID-19 Report on Responding, Recovering, and Recovering Issues. It can be found at www.respondrecoverrebuild.com.
The new website is a centralized resource for Cherokees to help ensure their tribal government transparently and effectively manages coronavirus recovery funds. It shows a breakdown of spending and the number of ways tribal citizens have received assistance. We are proud to have provided direct assistants to more than 130,000 citizens and to have helped thousands through critical programs created or expanded through the CARES Act.
As we vaccinate more Cherokees and leave this pandemic behind, we will continue to provide financial transparency and open communication with our citizens. Cherokees have the right to know how aid funds are being used.
I applaud the Cherokee Nation finance team for their resilience, adaptability, and professionalism. Despite the turmoil in northeast Oklahoma and around the world last year, Cherokee Nation has remained in good financial shape.
Further highlights of the past year are:
• $ 177 million for jobs so employees never missed a paycheck or seen layoffs in the past year.
• $ 54 million to individual citizens for emergency relief, clothing assistance, supplies, and other needs.
• $ 38 million for PPE and safety supplies, including development of Cherokee Nation’s N95 and N99 mask production facilities. Once the Cherokee Nation is operational, it will be the only N99 mask manufacturer in the US.
• $ 22 million for public health infrastructures such as new health clinics for employees, expanded shelters against domestic violence, and improvements to community water pipes and water treatment.
• US $ 19 million technology grants to help students purchase the equipment they need for distance learning.
• $ 27 million to improve broadband connectivity, including shipping over 9,000 wireless wireless hotspots with one year of free service to Cherokee Nation citizens without an internet connection.
• $ 27 million for food security, including the construction of five new food distribution centers, a meat processing facility and additional refrigerated trucks.
Federal CARES law and the Cherokee Nation’s Response, Restoration and Reconstruction Plan have allowed us to invest quickly in what will help most Cherokees. We have and will continue to act urgently and consciously in how we use tribal resources and the spending report reflects this. 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.