The Northern Arapaho Tribe has laid out its plans for spending $19 million in federal coronavirus relief aid that it received through the CARES Act. On behalf of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, Chairman Lee Spoonhunter said more than $5.2 million of the aid will be disbursed directly to tribal citizens who have taken a financial hit due to the pandemic.
"These dollars are available to assist enrolled tribal members with housing, utility costs, as well as provide food assistance," Spoonhunter said in a web address Friday morning. "It will be distributed in the amount of $500 per enrolled tribal member around July 1."
Spoonhunter said the tribe is allocating the funding in accordance with federal guidelines, which require spending to be directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of the $19 million fund, $4.5 million will go towards public health infrastructure improvements to tribal facilities, including water and sewer upgrades at Blue Sky and Great Plains Halls. $1 million will pay for infrastructure improvements to the Black Coal senior centers and increased food assistance and meal delivery for Northern Arapaho Elders. An additional $1 million will assist tribal students who have unexpected technology needs associated with remote learning.
Spoonhunter also announced that the Business Council will allocate $1.5 million towards the construction of a small meat processing facility, with plans to certify that facility through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
"[The facility] will employ tribal members and help ensure a reliable beef supply for the community," Spoonhunter said.
The tribe's planned facility would be one of only a handful of USDA approved beef processors in Wyoming. According to a recent report by the Wyoming Business Council, it would help fulfill significant demand for USDA certified processors in our state.
The tribe's medical clinic, Wind River Family and Community Health Care, will receive $1 million to aid in combating the spread of COVID-19. Spoonhunter said some of that money would be used to build an isolation care unit at the clinic.
Of the total funds, $1.5 million will go towards a tribal department to manage new projects and programs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. $3.2 million will be set aside in a COVID-19 contingency fund, which Spoonhunter said will cover "unanticipated tribal expenses" associated with COVID-19 in the coming months.
"The Northern Arapaho Business Council will continue coordinating with state and federal officials whenever possible to secure additional financial assistance so that our community emerges from this pandemic stronger than ever," Spoonhunter said. "Before long, we are optimistic about being able to relax some COVID-19 restrictions on tribal gatherings."
However, according to medical and public health officials on Wind River, community spread of COVID-19 is still occurring on the reservation and in its border communities. Spoonhunter said that between Monday, May 25 and Monday, June 1, more than 30 new cases were identified among tribal members through a mass testing program at Wind River Family and Community Healthcare.
"We ask that all tribal members, for the protection of our elders and other vulnerable populations in the tribe, please continue practicing social distancing, wearing your masks in public, practicing good hand washing, and avoiding large gatherings," Spoonhunter said.
The tribe has until December 30 of this year to spend the $19 million it received through the CARES Act.
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