Here at Council special session to address legislation and reports regarding COVID-19.
Council is back from 15 minute break to make amendments to $3 million in emergency funds for Navajo Nation Emergency Management Office and 110 chapters.
Amendment is to waive the Navajo Nation Appropriation Act to allow chapters to submit emergency funding requests without the mandated budget forms.
NOTE – I’ll be writing as Council acts and so forgive incorrect spelling & grammar. And as I’m writing from Council meeting, this post will automatically update.
COUNCIL DELEGATE KEE ALLEN BEGAY Legislation not say for funds to be immediately released to chapters.
COUNCIL DELEGATE FREELAND Alama has $13,000 and bill gives $2,000 to get $15,000. Tohajiile has zero in emergency fund so they get full $15,000. Shortage of hand sanitizer and paper products will be another obstacle.
DELEGATE AMBER CROTTY Ask that Section regarding accountability not be waived. Navajo has reasonable right to review chapter books regarding $15,000 in public health emergencies. Recommends language to protect and make sure chapters accountable with funds.
DELEGATE CARL SLATER What is goal of $3M bill? preparedness? education? clean sufaces? clean hands? Etc? If not guidelines then just about making ourselves look good. What about using funds for testing kits? Sponsors of legislation needs to be answer.
DELEGATE MARK FREELAND If questions regarding accountability, then can be done. Regarding testing kits, National Public Radio reported there is shortage of test kits and chapters should not buy. Indian Health Services and federal government should buy. Forcus of $15,000 should be for elders. Lot of them can’t go out and so buy them groceries. Elders live simply. I support $3M funding.
DELEGATE PAUL BEGAY I support Delegate Kee Allen Begay’s funds. Lot of these emergency bills debated for too long and by the time approve, emergency passed. I told my chapter constituents that funds coming. So perhaps has exhibit, list uses for $15,000 to each chapter. I’ve heard toilet paper going for $50 dollars. We need to address price gouging.
DELEGATE VINCE JAMES $I support $1.6M which equals to $15,000 per chapters and rest, $1.3M go to Navajo Nation Emergency Management Office, instead of entire $3M going to Emergency Management and having chapters request for emergency COVID-19 funds. I think President Nez will veto cuz of wording. We need to pray that President doesn’t veto this bill because of all the changes we are making that involves $1.6M going to 110 chapters and $1.3M for Emergency Management Office.
NOTE Earlier in the Council debate on $3M, it was reported that if the entire $3M went to Emergency Management that the chapters could make a written request for funding to ensure that chapters are using emergency COVID-19 funds to address the public health emergency and not buying equipment. The written requests from Chapters would also help Navajo Nation get those funds reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency/FEMA.
DELEGATE HALONA Has Navajo Emergency Management contacted FEMA? And President Nez said testing kits would be paid for by Federal government. So I support the amendment that give $1.6M to 110 chapters and $1.3M for Emergency Management.
EM Director Nez informed Council that their priority for funds is assist chapters that report a possible COVID-19 case by providing trained personnel to transport individual or individuals to hospital.
DELEGATE AMBER CROTTY Since hearing about possible presidential veto of Council’s amended legislation for portion of $3M to go directly to chapters, maybe free up other chapters funds?
DELEGATE FREELAND Looked at Ebay, 3 oz bottle of hand sanitizer $30. So where are chapters going to locate these types of needed supplies. Navajo divisions need to help chapters locate supply centers. In initial $3M budget, there is $750,000 for supplies for Emergency Management and that should go to chapters.
DELEGATE SLATER i think there is need to reframe how $3M will be used. We need health professional to identify what public needs instead of relying on chapter officials. And instead of throwing money directly to chapters and have funds funneled through Emergency Management by written requests by chapters. We need to treat what is in Undesignated Unreserved Fund Balance as if it is our last funds instead of throwing funds to chapters without any requirements for how it is to be spent. We need to listen to health professional and Community Health Represeentatives.
DELEGATE FREELAND There is 800 number from New Mexico that will help elders or disabled or those unable to get supplies.
NAVAJO NATION FINANCE STAFF TO COUNCIL It has been unadviseable to release restricted funds to chapters cuz in the past restricted funds open/available and lead to audit funds and some restricted funds are federal dollars for veterans and scholarships. Also refer to Tax & Finance for advisement and clarification regarding Sales Tax revenues, which are also restiructed funds. NOTE – Delegate Crotty suggested that the Council free up Resttricted Funds which would allow chapters to use and also ensure that President Nez not veto $3M.
NOTE – It is now 2:335 pm & Council still debating appropriation of $3M…
DELEGATE EDMUND YAZZIE On this amendment, let’s vote. I was going to add amendment for full $15,000 to chapters. We’re not scared of vetoes but we want funding to proceed on like a hot bowl of stew. But for good stew and fry bread, we need participants. We need President Nez to have bowl of stew with us. President and Vice President need to be here. Pueblo governor work with their Council. All we can do is pray for more toilet paper and that COVID-19 goes away.
DELEGATE OTTO TSO We need to lift restrictions on Chapters so they can spend. NOTE – Delegate Otto Tso’s chapter, Tuba City, had millions – yes, millions – of dollars that went missing. Former chapter administrator was prosecuted but full amount stolen will not be returned to chapter.
DELEGATE SLATER Are we going to have enough funds for Emergency Medical Services and Emergency Medical Technicians and ambulances and federal grant health facilities. Will it be there or will be gone by how we are spending it now.
DELEGATE CHARLAINE TSO, WHO IS SPONSOR OF $3M. There are chapters that have $200 and others with thousands in unspent emergency funds. If get case, then what? And if not, what about future pandemics. We don’t have supplies listed here cuz each chapter different. We cannot go to chapters for their budgets. No time in emergency. If lose elder to pandemic, then sad and regret if not act on it. Not time to say, let’s make amendment and give chapters $15,000. We need to put ego aside and work with President Nez.
DELEGATE ELMER BEGAY There is no need for that type of talk from Delegate Charlaine Tso.
DELEGATE CHARLAINE TSO This 50-50 distribution formula for $3M to 110 chapters will be vetoed is the information I have received.
DELEGATE CROTTY I do not respond to threats. There is no plan from Emergency Management who informed us as Council that Navajo Health Department taking lead since public health emergency. Funds are needed for CHRs. There is also issue with need for amendments to Emergency Management plan of operation.
DELEGATE CHARLES-NEWTON We have to be clear in language of our legislation so language about egos is not needed. I take offense. When read legislation, there is need for amendments. We are being accused of having ego but we not ones to veto when appropriate to people that need it. Here to argue for vulnerable adults. Focus on amendment that money will go to those that need it. NOTE – The statement by Charles-Newton that money will go to needed reminded of similar language in the now defunct Navajo Council discretionary funds for the most needy – elders, veterans, students, emergencies, etc. But about $30M went into the pockets of Council delegates and legislative staff and relatives.
NOTE – The Council is finally voting on Amendment 2 which gives $1.6M directly to 110 chapters. It is now 2:56 pm. The VOTE is 20 in favor and 2 opposed. The two opposing votes are Delegates Charlaine Tso and Carl Slater voted RED, which is no.
The Council back to main motion on $3M..and Delegates debating again. It is now 3 pm
DELEGATE ELMER BEGAY On the outside, utility companies and phone services are not turning service. Can that be done by Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and cell companies?
AMENDMENT 3, Change $3M to $3,121,000. $121,000 requested by Navajo Nation Legislative Branch Office of the Speaker to be used for personal protection equipment, media, etc. As a journalist, I have to plead with legislative staff, who usually ignore me, for handouts, such as Amendments to legislation so I can accurately report how the Council amends legislation.
DELEGATE ELMER BEGAY This amendment 3 is for Speaker’s Office. In my community, there are two individuals with fixed income, have lands, grazing permits, grandchildren and we are going to have ceremonies for them. They are doing something. Here we are just getting supplies. Our people need protection. Is there any budget for traditional ceremonies?
SPEAKER SETH DAMON There is Funding for traditional healing in speaker’s office. There is adequate funding for that.
DELEGATE RICK NEZ Earlier NTUA mentioned but they are not here. They ask for funds and we help them so where are they. I understand we need to prepare and public education, but there is budget for refreshments and special events. What’s that?
SPEAKER DAMON There is no request for catering and special events. You are probably looking at a different budget.
DELEGATE EDMUND YAZZIE Vote down $120,000 for Speaker’s office to buy face masks, etc.
COUNCIL VOTING ON AMENDMENT 3, which is $120,000 for Speaker’s Office. It is now 3:25 pm. NOTE – The voting tallies of Council and its standing committees are Public Information and should be posted on Council website but its’ not and I request but rarely received. VOTE 9 in favor and 13 opposed
DELEGATE DANIEL TSO I received report that there is funding under federal Homeland Security. There are 82 chapters that don’t have enough funds and so let’s move this $3M bill. The remaining chapters have enough and can immediately access their funds. I call for VOTE on amended $3M legislation.
It is now 3:31 pm Monday here in the Department of Dine’ Education auditorium where public is not allowed cuz of COVID-19.
DELEGATE AMBER CROTTY Clarify that this legislation has funds going directly to chapters? Speaker says No. And since Navajo Health Department is Incident Command for Public Health Emergency, is there money going to DOH? Speaker Damon says no. Entire $3M going to Navajo Emergency Management.
COUNCIL VOTING ON CEASE DEBATE ON LEGISLATION 0054-20, the appropriation of $3M to Navajo Emergency Management. It is now 3:37 pm. Speaker Damon informed Council that 15 yes votes are needed to approve 0054-20. VOTE is 10-12.
DELEGATE RICK NEZ I understand we shouldn’t put fear in our people. Now is the time to take care of our health, exercise, eat better. We don’t know what’s next. This virus happens every two years. We need to educate people every two years. Wed need to encourage them and talk to them in a good way.
DELEGATE MARK FREELAND I really feel we need to stand with people, persevere and overcome and to not be afraid and we will overcome. and we will overcome as in the past. We will get thru this together. Regarding main motion, I mentioned earlier about most vulnerable population, elders. Our people go directly to chapter for assistance. Focus on elders.
CHAPTER OFFICIAL I want to frame my responses, as my leaders, i’m coming to you and pleading with you and contacted with you regarding chapter concerns. this legislation about funding of COVID-19 under emergency command, which is umbrella we work under. Disaster fund and Emergency Management addresses all our needs, supplies, materials and in event confirmed case then how community/chapter respond. All this how communicate through Command Center. It is national structure we are employing. Up to now, we have been working with top officials, top medical experts leading conversation about prevention of COVID-19. I want all chapters to respond to helping elders. Most of chapters have direct deposit. Also amend emergency by reducing quorum. That law can be waived. we are trying to mitgate virus and educate all memberss and keep elders/most vulnerable safe. Eduation about quarantee and spacing and decreasing risk of contact and has to be done under Command Center. Other areas is reduce harmful effect which is also under Command Center. this is to provide financial stability by just meeting $15,000 threashold and work with Navajo financial office to process chapter requests as quickly as possible. You know our chapter officials and CHR knon where elders live and how to drive roads. Those are expenses accuring and with the passage of this $3M bill, we can get reimbursed. We do want funds and address declaration and disaster fund, which was created to be replenished with justified expenses during the declaration.
NAVAJO EMERGENCY MGMT STAFF, HARLAND: Because disaster account never replenished, there is no plan of operation. Last time Funds in Emergency Mgmt Disaster Account was in 2010 during monsoon season.
DELEGATE RAY SMITH Been thinking about elders and hope their utilities don’t get shut off.
DELEGATE SLATER Couldn’t understand what he said cuz microphone garbled his words.
AMENDMENT 3: emergency management immediately work with traditional healers for prayers and songs and protection way ceremony.
Council voting on Amendment 3. It is now 4:25 pm. VOTE is 20 in favor and 1 opposed.
DELEGATE AMBER CROTTY Review exhibit regarding Navajo Emergency Management plan of operation. I can recall how money in this fund was misused. I want to make sure the $3M not misused and there is transparency in how funds spent.
issue directive that President Nez sign letter with Speaker Damon regarding Naataani Development Corporation, which ready to provide hand sanitizer and cleaning products. And with school closures, they would work with Food Sovereignty to distribute food to children/students. They would have been up and ready if President Nez worked faster with NDC. When Indian management care fuly up then they would provide testing, doctors, xrays, etc. This is directive that Council would issue with this legislation.
SPEAKER DAMON We can get directive out and ask to be on regular agenda item. Is that okay, Delegate Daniel Tso? Delegate Daniel Tso says yes.
DELEGATE HERMAN DANIELS Motion to Cease Debate and VOTE on main motion. It is now 4:39 pm. Speaker Damon says the debate has been healthy so recognize Motion to Cease Debate, which is seconded by Delegate Carl Slater.
DELEGATE CROTTY asked for review of Emergency Mgmt plan of operation and accountability of $3M in Disaster Fund.
DELEGATE VINCE JAMES Can Emergency Mgmt issue checks to Chapters. Impt question that needs answers and none of these funds going to Chapters. NOTE – Chapters can obtain portion of $3M by making written request with justification to use portion of $3M, which Emergency Mgmt review and then approve. Funds can be directly deposited into chapter budgets if the chapter has set up direct depost.
CHIEF LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL DANA BOBROFF Any decision by Speaker subject to challenge. If fails then go to cease debate without discussion. Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton challenging Speaker decision to cease debate.
SPEAKER DAMON Four delegates who debates were in favor and four delegates opposed Legislation 0054-20 regarding funds going to Chapters.
COUNCIL VOTING on Delegate Charles-Newton challenge to Speaker’s decision to Cease Debate: VOTE is 7 in favor and 15 opposed. Challenge fails and so now Council voting on Cease Debate. It is now 4:51 pm. VOTE is 15 in favor, 7 opposed.
DELEGATE CROTTY calls out to Speaker to allow Office of Management and Budget to report on mismanagement of Navajo Emergency Mgmt Disaster Fund.
SPEAKER DAMON I will have that info distributed to Council delegates.
DELEGATE CROTTY I asked for this info prior to Cease Debate and so I ask for legal opinion on my rights as delegate to have sufficient information before casting my vote.
SPEAKER rviews laws
OMB some of us been there since 1992 and every winter crisis of one sort and usually snow, mud, etc and then monsoon, drought, wildland fires. Navajo has history of appropriating emergency funds so therefore when former President Joe Shirley Jr. first elected, you all remember he was previously an Apache County supervisor so he was very familiar with Arizona procedures regarding emergency fund for situations like this and governor given certain powers to allocate those funds in emergency. Governement leaders as mentioned by Harlan Cleveland, Council appropriated Disaster Assistance Fund and first time fund established. Because i was there i remember discussion and to be rez wide fund for declared emergencies by Emergency Mgmt for major emergencies. However problem, Emergency Mgmt and Public Safety, administrators back then started using funds for individual emergency situations, like fire burnouts, roof damage but there are other funding sources for those situations. So Budget & Finance Committee decided to define procedures for Disaster Fund. It was gong thru committees but never approved. So worried that program managers would begin to use funds for personal individual uses.
DELEGATE VINCE JAMES I also asked questions before Cease Debate – Can Emergency Management issue checks to chapters?
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT HARLAN CLEVELAND We request that chapters get funded and some have direct deposit.
NAVAJO CONTROLLER KIRK Question is whether Emergency Mgmt can issue checks to chapters. As long as emergency mgmt and corresponding budget form and there is account, they are able to do under Expenditure Authorization Form. I understand money deployed for certain reasons and Emergency Management get reimbursed by FEMA.
SECOND READING OF $3m LEGISLATION. It is now 5:09 pm
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT HARLAN CLEVELAND The $1M in Emergency Management request was based on NTUA dealing with freeze was more than $1M to replace busted water lines.
DELEGATE VINCE JAMES Why did we add amendments when no funds going directly to chapters.
SPEAKER DAMON When legislation goes to council and it can make amendments which was done by Delegate Crotty, Kee Allen Begay and Elmer Begay, These amendments were to help Delegates and then Cease Debate so we are here.
Council finally voting Legislation 0054-19, $3M for emergency management to address COVID-19. It is now 5:18 pm. VOTE is 11 in favor, 11 opposed MOTION FAILS
DELEGATE CROTTY Can OMB give report on $3M in carryover funds from 2019 to 2020 for Office of the President and Vice President.