Nez-Lizer approve some CARES Act funding, vetoes another $73 million
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On July 4, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer approved portions of two separate resolutions that address the use of federal CARES Act funding for the Navajo Nation.
The Nez-Lizer Administration approved the following funds through Resolution CJN-46-20:
· $20 million for special duty pay for frontline workers and other essential personnel whose duties are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency
· $10 million for Personal Protective Equipment for frontline workers and other essential personnel whose duties are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency
· $10 million to ensure that the facilities operated by the Navajo Nation are disinfected and otherwise safe for returning employees and the public seeking governmental services
Several portions of the resolutions were also removed based on what Nez said was thorough vetting and consideration of all spending measures included in the two resolutions.
The Navajo Nation Council said Nez line-item vetoed $73 million in coronavirus (COVID-19) response funding that was approved June 19 by the council.
“President Nez eliminated COVID-19 response funding for all 110 local Navajo Nation communities, funding to support the Judicial Branch and Navajo Nation courts, immediate assistance for burnout families at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 without shelter and pandemic-related support for Navajo traditional practitioners,” the council press release said.
Nez said that signing the resolutions that passed into law is a win for first responders and the Navajo people.
“Our focus has always been to put forth a comprehensive plan that helps those who need it the most and that includes our frontline warriors, and also to plan and prepare for any potential new waves of COVID-19 and other pandemics,” Nez said.
He countered the council saying that he has vetoed items he thought were not needed, which introduced a chaotic environment.
“Instead, we have council members introducing multiple pieces of legislation that create a chaotic process and attempting to include pet projects and frivolous spending,” Nez said.
In their written message to the Council, President Nez and Vice President Lizer also urged the Council to respect the separation of powers among the three branches of government and not to overstep boundaries by attempting to issue directives to the Executive Branch through legislation.
“We air the concern that the Council does not honor the separation of powers by appropriating, planning, and executing the law it passed. We urge the Navajo Council to work with the branch chiefs in all future funding plans so we may put our funds to good use. We look to veteran Delegates and those with sound judgment to work with the Branch Chiefs to move quickly on future funding plans. Working together we can accomplish our goals,” the letter stated.
Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon said the council had taken great pains to ensure the process has been as accessible and transparent as possible.
“Since mid-May, the 24th Navajo Nation Council held more than a dozen work sessions that went in-depth with Navajo Nation partners on COVID-19-related needs for medical and health care facilities, water infrastructure needs, agricultural impacts, the needs of domestic violence shelters and other social services, electricity and power line needs, public safety concerns and opportunities, impacts to students of all grade levels, housing impacts and more,” Damon said.
A $1 million set-aside for the Diné Hataałi Association was removed because it does not comply with the federal guidelines for the use of CARES Act funds.
The Council’s support of the association’s expenditure plan had an extensive record of discussion that fully justified its approval.
“President Nez argued that Navajo medicine men and traditional practitioners were not explicitly allowed in the law passed by Congress nor the guidelines from the U.S Treasury for state, local and tribal governments. The Council fully justified these expenditures under the federal guidelines as necessary for the mental health and spiritual well-being of many Navajo members,” Damon said.
The leaders also line-item vetoed $55 million for chapters, citing the large sums of funds required to be expended by the deadline imposed, which requires CARES Act funds to be spent by the end of August. They added that funding for chapters can be considered when the three branch chiefs develop more expenditure plans.
There is a Dec. 30 deadline to spend federal CARES Act funds.
Public comments on legislation may be submitted to the Navajo Nation’s official legislative public commenting system by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“As council delegates, we love our communities greatly, and it pains us to know that we are trying our hardest to meet President Nez in the middle, only to be met with vetoes. But, it’s our job to fight for our local communities, and the Navajo Nation Council will continue putting forward funding that has been developed with the input from the Executive Brand and the Judicial Branch from the very beginning,” Damon said.
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