Begaye: Navajo Nation chapters need to prepare for Healthy Dine' tax money
ALBUQUERQUE-In September, Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez met with the First Nations Development Institute to discuss the Healthy Dine' Nation Act fund management plan and the first round of tax payments.
He said the money from the unhealthy foods tax is going to empower Navajo communities by providing funding for healthy activities, such as running trails, exercise equipment and health education.
President Russell Begaye supports the Healthy Dine' Nation Act and said the administration promotes active and healthy lifestyles.
"Navajo chapters need to prepare for the funding distribution and begin planning on how to utilize the tax to promote health and wellness in their communities," Begaye said.
Nez said it takes a lot of education to live a healthy lifestyle.
"We must inform our chapters about exercise, diet and the benefits of healthy living," he said.
Denisa Livingston, community health advocate for Dine' Community Advocacy Alliance, expressed excitement about the first round of tax dollars.
"The chapter policies have been drafted and submitted to Division of Community Development. We need to get the policies completed before Oct. 1, the date of the first disbursement," Livingston said.
In addition to preparing chapters for the revenue and the policy on use of the funds, the group must also work with the Office of the Navajo Nation Tax Commission on tax compliance.
A two-percent sales tax is imposed on unhealthy foods and a two-percent tax incentive is provided for sales of healthy foods. Enforcement of the tax needs to be strengthened.
"Stores may not understand the two laws or they may not understand the grocery item listing we submitted. Bashas' is fully compliant," said Livingston.
Danny Simpson, a former councilman for the 22nd Navajo Nation Council, sponsored the Healthy Dine' Nation Act and is working to ensure it is carried out for five years or more, as legislated.
"The policy hasn't been implemented. Education to the chapters on the fund management plan hasn't been done. We need your help for this implementation," Simpson said to Nez.
Dr. Raymond Foxworth of FNDI suggested the creation of a taskforce under the Office of the President and Vice President to begin the education on the tax fund for chapters.
"We are leveraging sovereignty to change behavior for diet and health. The policies have to be written by Navajo and owned by Navajo," he said.
The Healthy Dine' Nation Act expires in 2020, at which time the Navajo Nation Council may reconsider for reauthorization. The reauthorization of the tax may also be put before the Navajo people in a referendum.