Tribal Council unanimously approves CARES Act spending plan
TAHLEQUAH – During the latest Tribal Council meeting, Cherokee Nation leaders unanimously approved a spending plan for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of federal CARES Act coronavirus relief funds.
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the plan “lets us restore things, lets us reach out to the community” and “keeps us whole as a Nation.”
“We’ve operated at a high level during this crisis,” he added. “I think there’s a lot of businesses, a lot of governments that weren’t able to do that. We were able to do it because, I think, for a long time we’ve made prudent decisions with the resources that we have had. This is another example of a prudent use of those resources.”
The U.S. Department of Treasury allocated $8 billion within the relief fund for tribal governments. The CN has so far received a total of $415 million in federal relief funding. Additional funding was expected in June based on employment and government expenditures.
The tribe’s “respond, recover and rebuild” plan will use federal funding to offset COVID-19-related costs already spent.
“We have incurred costs – quite a bit of them,” Treasurer Tralynna Scott said. “I would say the vast majority of it is keeping our employees paid while the businesses were closed. For Cherokee Nation employees, it was sending everyone that we possibly could home. If you were over 65 or you had underlying health conditions, you were sent home, a lot of them on paid admin leave.”
Funding must be used to cover costs that were unaccounted for in tribal budgets, but were necessary due to COVID-19.
“This money cannot be used to replace any lost profits,” Scott said. “The intent of the government in providing this relief money is not to enrich anybody. It’s to help them with the costs that they have had to expend to keep their citizens and their employees and everyone else safe.”
According to Hoskin, Councilors received briefings on the initial spending plan in small groups prior to the committee meeting in addition to the presentation made by Scott at the committee meeting.
Similar to the April meeting, some councilors met at the Tribal Complex while others attended remotely to help mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19. Those who met at the Complex sat at individual tables apart from each other and wore surgical masks.