Arizona tribes to get $37 million for COVID-19 affordable housing




    coronavirus COVID-19
    A 3D model of COVID-19, the virus causing the coronavirus. Photo by NIAID-RML | Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is giving $37 million to Arizona’s 21 Native American tribes to fund housing needs during the COVID-19 crisis

    In total, the Indian Housing Block Grant will provide $200 million to tribes in 35 states, including New York, California, Nevada, and New Mexico. 

    Arizona will receive the largest portion of money aimed at helping tribes provide affordable housing and keeping their people safe during the pandemic. 

    The grants come as an addition to the CARES Act stimulus package that designated $10 billion to Indian Country.

    “HUD remains committed to providing tribes with the tools they need during this national emergency to continue to create safe, affordable housing opportunities for their communities,” said Secretary Ben Carson in a press release. 

    The grants can be used for housing development, operation and maintenance, modernization of existing housing and housing services to eligible individuals and families. 

    Navajo Nation is receiving the lion’s share of money in Arizona, with $22.3 million allocated to Window Rock. 

    The Navajo Nation has been one of the hardest hit areas in the country from the coronavirus, with the number of cases multiplying rapidly. As of April 9, the tribe has seen 488 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 20 deaths. 

    Democratic state Rep. Arlando Teller, a Navajo whose district includes much of the tribe’s land in Arizona, said that he is appreciative of the funds but not the strings attached. 

    “From what I’m understanding is that this funding to Navajo has compliance attached to it, guidelines and regulatory expenditure justification,” Teller said. “So, any expenditures that Navajo will be doing with this funding, I’m pretty sure it will be audited by the federal government to ensure full compliance.”

    Teller said that he expects another round of funds to be sent to Navajo Nation and other tribes across the country to help with issues arising from the pandemic. 

    “We don’t know how long this pandemic will continue to afflict the nation,” Teller said. “But it’s a beginning, and I think once the funding is depleted and audits are in process, then we might see another allocation needed to address issues related to the pandemic.”

    In response to the rising number of cases, the Navajo Nation will implement a 57-hour curfew from 8 p.m. on Friday until 5 a.m. on Monday. 

    It comes after Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer announced they are in self-quarantine after coming in contact with a tribal first responder who tested positive for COVID-19. 

    Other tribes in Arizona that were allocated a larger portion of the funds include Gila River Indian Community, Hopi Tribe and White Mountain Apache which received $2.4 million, $2 million and $2.2 million respectively. 

    As of April 9, the number of COVID-19 cases in Arizona was 3,018, and 89 people have died according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

    Nationwide, there are 451,491 coronavirus cases and 15,938 deaths, according to John Hopkins University.

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    Wissam Melhem is a journalism and political science senior at Arizona State University. He was a Washington, D.C., correspondent for Cronkite News at Arizona PBS and a political reporter for State Press. He hopes to one day have a career covering national elections and the U.S Congress.