Navajo Council session on emergency COVID-19 bills

NOTE – If you want to watch Council session, go to YouTube:

Council is debating its agenda.

COUNCIL DELEGATE DANIEL TSO add new report, Update on COVID-19 by US Indian Health Services Navajo Area Director Roselyn Tso.

DELEGATE CARL SLATER include legislation 0062-20,0063-20, 0064-20, 0065-20, 0060=20, 6661-20. DANIEL TSO who holds amendment to add items to Council agenda, accepts SLATER’s addition to his amendment. NOTE – it is now 11:38 am

DELEGATE DANIEL TSO accepts changing agenda to move legislation ahead of reports. And to add bills that are still being worked on by legislative legal staff.

DELEGATE THOMAS YELLOWHAIR add report on $112,000 outstanding bill for Chinle Nursing Home by Navajo Department of Social Services & Navajo Department of Justice need to explain $112,000 cuz its causing layoff of workers at nursing home.

DELEGATE DANIEL TSO accepts DELEGATE JIMMY YELLOWHAIR request for report on $112,000 and also for report on Food Distribution, which was made by DELEGATE JIMMY WALKER.

DELEGATE ELMER BEGAY if getting report from IHS Roselyn Tso then need to respect their time. Getting lot of emails and texts. They are out there busy. We can get reports by email and there are emergency command centers. And thought they are suppose to communicate with them. Let’s listen to them instead of doctors. After getting report, how are we going to help out. Our kids are going to be out of school. How will they get homework. Can we as Navajo government direct wireless and wife to get internet service to our kids That is priority for me. And what about elders? What is our plan today. These people needed out there today. We have Navajo Nation Public Health Emergency Incident Commander Dave Nez here and has up to date information minute by minute.

NOTE – The following is from my news story, which was published by the Gallup Independent newspaper today, March 20: The first member of the Navajo Nation to be confirmed as a COVID-19 case was reported by Indian Health Services as coming from their Kayenta hospital Tuesday morning. Nez and Lizer stated in a Tuesday news release that the individual was from the Chilchinbeto, Arizona, community.

By late Tuesday afternoon, two more Navajo Nation members tested positive for COVID-19, which included one more case from Chilchinbeto and the other from the northern portion of Arizona’s Navajo County, which also runs north onto the Navajo Nation and incudes Chilchinbeto and Kayenta.

During a Nez and Lizer telephonic press conference Wednesday, Navajo Nation Public Health Incident Commander Dave Nez declined to say when his Navajo Health Command Operations would be in Chilchinbeto.

Chilchinbeto Chapter administrators reported late Tuesday after that they had not seen or heard from Nez or his public health incident command team and they had been waiting a week for delivery of hand sanitizers and masks, which they had ordered for the community.

Chilchinbeto Chapter manager Evelyna Cleveland-Gray, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that she and her assistant, a female, were the only chapter staff keeping the chapter open.

Gray said she, her assistant, and chapter officials are doing their best to provide information and keep community members calm.

But she said they ordered hand sanitizers and masks a week ago and they are still waiting for delivery.

Gray said she and her assistant drove to Kayenta to buy hand sanitizers, masks and other needed items but store shelves were empty.

The Independent informed Nez about the plight of the Chilchinbeto administrators and he replied that as confirmed COVID-19 cases are reported to him, his team immediately activates their response plan, which focuses on investigating the case and ensuring that follow-up measures, such as quarantining the family members of the individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Nez also said that a Navajo Nation command center was opened at the Kayenta hospital Tuesday.

And regarding the critical need by Chilchinbeto, which is now the Navajo Nation’s epi-center for COVID-19 cases, for hand sanitizers and masks, Nez said there’s a national shortage of those items and his emergency COVID-19 command team is working through all available resources. END OF PORTION OF MY NEWS STORY REGARDING IC NEZ.

DELEGATE PAUL BEGAY we need update report by Navajo Division of Human Resources on how many Navajo government employees at the certified and non-certified chapters are working and not working. DELEGATE DANIEL TSO part of order is to shelter in place but senior centers are asking elders to drive to senior center to pick up food. Perhaps if we hear from Yellowman. One more modification, report on outstanding $112,000 bill. We met with president nez and social services about that and other nursing homes on Navajo Nation. So ask that that be written report. But accept Delegate Paul Begay regarding report by Community Development Division on essential and non-essential staff at certified and non-certified chapters.

DELEGATE VINCE JAMES cease debate and vote on Delegste Daniel Tso amendment. IT IS NOW 12:06 PM . VOTE is 21 in favor, 1 opposed. Council agenda accepted. 12:10 pm

DELEGATE CARL SLATER Amendment 2: ask that Legislation 0062-20, 0063-20, 0064-20, 0065-20 be placed on on Consent Agenda, which means Council makes one vote on all three bills. It would be more efficient especially with COVID-19 emergency on Navajo Nation. We need to get funds and services out as quickly as possible.

SPEAKER DAMON cannot accept Delegate Slater amendment because bills were not on proposed agenda but because of COVID-19 emergency, it can be done after Council adopts agenda. I will recognize Delegate Slater after agenda to make his amendment, which will need 16 Yes votes to be approved.

COUNCIL VOTING ON AGENDA. 12:25 pm 20 in favor, 0 opposed.

COUNCIL DELEGATE CARL SLATER makes motion to have Legislation 0061-20, 0062-20, 0063-20, 0064-20, 0065-20.

DELEGATE RICK NEZ I have nothing against chapters but are we distributing $15,000 to each chapter and some chapters have thousands of dollars unspent in their budget. We cannot take advantage of COVID-19. If do this President Nez could veto. Why not just increase emergency funds to chapters at amount that would bring their emergency budget to $15,000.

SPEAKER DAMON Delegate Nez you can remove any legislation from consent agenda.

DELEGATE JIMMY YELLOWHAIR Office of Budget and Management reported that chapters have outstanding balances. We shud not throw funds away when there is no plan.

DELEGATE ELMER BEGAY i’m trying to make best decision regarding funds. we know issue out there and cases confirmed. some of our own people confirmed with COVID-19. we know each chapter getting money and some have money. What are the emergency plans of chapters? If chapter emergency plan involves food distribution will we be making health problems out there? The navajo nation public health emergency incident command center has staff out there investigating cases by going door to door to see how people are doing.

DELEGATE KEE ALLEN BEGAY this is consent agenda and no debate unless remove specific legislation from consent agenda. DELEGATE SLATER says to remove 0063-20, which sought to give each of the 110 chapters $15,000 each.

DELEGATE EDMUND YAZZIE i support consent agenda including 0063-20. the reason chapters dk how to respond. Delegate Rick Nez has good response plan in place. All chapters need emergency response plan and most chapters know how to respond to natural emergency but not public health emergency. when get to chapter funding, i was going to include in $4M to make $5.5M and if chapter really needs then chapter can request emergency funds from Incident Command. If do this then President Nez veto.

COUNCIL VOTING ON CONSENT AGENDA, which includes emergency Legislation 0060-20; which waives council rules regarding quorums for chapter meetings; 0061-20, directing the clerk of House of Representatives to make corrections to the engrossment of H.R. 6201; 0062-20, appropriating $4M for Navajo Health Department; Navajo 0064-20, suspend rules to hold chapter meetings with reduced quorums; 0065-20, minimize procedures to accept donations. VOTE 22 in favor, zero opposed. Consent agenda added to main agenda approved. Council then votes to approve Consent Agenda, which includes approval of five bills, with vote of 22 in favor and zero opposed. It is now 1:05 pm

COUNCIL begins debate on Legislation 0063-20, which seeks to appropriate $15,000 to each of the 110 chapters. It is now 1 pm

DELEGATE EUGENE TSO if $15,000 is given to each chapter,what does that mean per community member? It could mean very little help to each community member.

DELEGATE ELMER BEGAY this is a public health crisis and not a weather emergency. The Navajo small business people are hurting.; They are laying off their workers cuz they have no revenues. These kind of people are being hurt. Can the Council ask banks, as Navajo government, to provide loans to Navajo small businesses. We already approved $4M for Navajo health department. And our students – college, universities, schools – need to have wifi funded for them to continue their education. Maybe we could ask Cellular One and Choice Network to waive installation fee. We could do for each Council delegate too.

DELEGATE PERNELL HALONA we have no time. california enacted self quarantine for 40 million citizens and project that 2 million will be infected. On Monday Council session, Yellowman told us that cannot change guidelines to shift funds from other chapter accounts to emergency budget. Have community members asking where are gift bags and when we tell them no gift bags, they got angry. Last night watching news and one family lost four family members to virus within three weeks. we are looking at them her on rez. we need to get going. casinos closed and next year we will be fighting to get funds for annual budget. The federal government is working on financial assistance but we need to get funding in place. COVID-19 here and could double. Can’t wait around so ask President Nez not to veto. Navajo Nation Command Center not communicating with chapters; chapters are complaining about Navajo command center. There is no time for that. Ask Nez not to veto help for chapters.

DELEGATE EDMUND YAZZIE five chapters with $4,000 or less. what bothers me is why President Nez not sitting here with us. Trump got together with Democrates. We want to ask you questions, President Nez. After this meeting, I feel like going to radio station and informing people that President Nez not working with Council.

DELEGATE RICK NEZ Navajo Nation employees are not trained to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. I love my people.

DELEGATE PAUL BEGAY this is a world wide crisis not a weather disaster!

DELEGATE HERMAN DANIELS I have chapters with more than 1,000 registered voters and other with less than 1,000. If distribution was 50-50 distribution formula, i would support. but this is $15,000 per chapter. The first responders, Community Health Representatives, emergency medical technicians need protective gear. I’ve been getting text from Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon vendors.

DELEGATE THOMAS WALKER thanks Indian Health Service Navajo Area director Roselyn Tso for being at council meeting. I’m ready to vote green. i represent chapters in southeast and they are awaiting help from Window Rock, their mother government. This $15,000 is a drop in the bucket. But the longer we debate, the longer it will take to get this funding out to chapters, who have learned how to stretch money. I expect aid from counties, states, and Washington, DC. to reach our communities. We know that our communities are ill prepared and ill equipped to deal with COVID-19. Those numbers increasing on Navajo and around us. With the little resources we have we can put our heads together and be part of strategy. we need to manage our time and funds. I ask that President sign this request for $15,000 to each of the 110 chapters. Vote.

pandemic has brought us togeher. we need to think abut why doing this. i represent five chapters. i vote with chapters and know voters. one of chapters has 300 members but have biggest hearts. communicating to people important for me. when i sit in chapter meetings, i can vouch for them. they do things according to Navajo law and i review financial spread sheets and every penny accounted for. some chapters hurt the process but i have 8 of 110 that are unique. this $15,000 would help chapters. $446 in budget and got food for three elders. Help needed for single parents and veterans. I went with CHRs to deliver toilet paper, groceries, other items. We are in ths together.

DELEGATE CHARLAINE TSO just listening to comments, this was issue when i presented my legislation Monday for $3M for Navajo COVID-19 preparedness. if we give $15,000 to ech chapter, i have one chaper with about $61,000. and there was issue that and i thought council would go to Nez goig into circular non ending debate. I wil support this but i want peole to be safe. but think about projections we making to world. let’s just vote green.

COUNCIL DELEGATE NATHANIEL BROWN we are in dark time and speaking on behalf of chiilchinbeto, kayenta, Getting texts from one cmmty. servies not beng delivered. IC center now going up. thank everyone putting helath at risk to help pple. hear this will get worse. chapters were going to use junk foof revenues. when go to stores, lack of food and supplies. chilchinbeto locked down, no one enter or leave. Kayenta out of testing and referring ot othr areas. i jsut wnt to concerns, prayers is what we are asking for. we are dong our best. our chpte mgr gray doing excellant and enoucage keep herself sfe. we all have ple tht love us. encourage al of you to vote green. our pple need this and they are wiaitng and araid. at chpate level we are organized. every minue have pple helping and sfor some us can’t b there. ask please prayer for each other. ahe’hee for lisening. going ack and forht on phone calls. lets ge this done.

PRESIDENT JONATHAN NEZ as U know many pple around world felt COVID virus and now its in the united states. thx first responders, professionals. they did their very very best to keep this virus out of the Navajo Nation. We held out before all 50 states had positive results

I commend Navajo Nation first responders. We have let navajo pple know on radio forum, going door to door., Ask everyonetake care of selves, use soap and water to wash your hands, practice social distancong, no large gathering. i appreciate these questions posed today and i can understand frustration in time of uncetainty. You and i are no experts. This has never happend at this level. This is a federal health crisis and we are using CDC recommendations.

Minute by minute things are changing and for those viewing on world wide web. the Navajo Nation declared a public health emergency atfer new mexico confirmed its first case, which involved 3 individuals testing positive. The investigation of the individuals in the NM first case showed they were infected outside NM. And once that happened, we declared a public health emergency with convening of emergency commisson, which by the way, still lacks a representatives from the legislative branch. The commission recommended a state of emergency and Nez & Lizer declared a months ago.

People out there said I was scaring people when I talked about COVID-19 months ago but all i wanted was best safety of navajo people. And now the message is to stay home and that message is being made across the world. Stay home; heed those warnings. And if you need get necessities, then one individual go shopping.

And all tourist destinations closed. This is no time for visitors and we ask visitors to respect sovereignty of Navajo Nation and please don’t travel. Now is not the time to sight see because all sites closed.

We need all public safety personnel to be out there. We cannot physically close border becuz half of our people live off rez. if we close borders, there will be unrest cuz many of our people would want to come home.

Again, this advice is from White House and around the world: Stay home. But I know the importance of your job as Council delegate. i know we are all taking big step by convening together but we all have best interest of people. We now have 14 cofirmed cases. I hear Council delegates saying they are not being informed about what the Executive Branch is doing but we have been having meetings. This past week we had leadership meetings with Indian Heath Services, EOC and health department, and we have those every Tueday and Friday but today’s leadership meeting was cancelled cuz we’re all here. Thank Asa for attending our leadership on behalf of the legislative branch. He updates us and takes message back to you. I want to thank Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne for personally attending the leadership meetings. And some Council delegates at this session have also attended these leadership meetings and so updates were provided to you.

But we need experts, like Navajo Area IHS Director Roselyn Tso, byron johnson, IC dave nez, Health Division Director jill jim, Navajo attorney general doreen mcpaul, and other division directors, out there trying to help. I ask the coucil to understand that we are doing our best, but these experts and division directors need to work. we have an emergency center liason, Paulsen Chaco, who can provide the council with updates.

With 14 cases, the hot spot on Navajo Nation is Chilchinbeto. I have lot of relatives in that area and i am doing my best to comfort relatives and take Information out there. COVID-19 hits most vulnerable population, more than us healthy people. But we might have bug and not knowing and socialize with elders. So be careful and that’s why i said to wait to give money to chapters. if you give money to chapters, they will bundle food packages and send out chapter workers who might infect elders. This is not a winter emergency. For this emergency, we need experts, such as Dave Nez, Jill Jim, Roselyn Tso, to gather resources.

know lot of concern by navajo peole and i think there needs to be a stay at home order cuz people still traveling and there might have to be raodblocks to tell people traveling to go home. Division director Garrett Silversmith putting up billboards regarding social distancing, stay home. And for Chilchinbeto, there are food packages ready to go to elderly so those of you out there in Chilchinbeto, please be patient. We are delivering to most needy. There was a plan for care packages but when blowup at Chilchinbeto and Kayenta, then those care packages redirected. Arizona helping with billboards. and Navajo commandeer bilboard with numbers, website and addresses and tell people social distancng. for time being, take those over and let our people know. division director working around clock to man command centers. was two hour forum but now one hour forum tuesday and thursday, 6 pm, to get word out. first time translating terms and we have team to translate and keep simple like COVID-19 cuz of how translate into Navajo. Early morning hours and line but thought to do cuz clean Basha’s. had call with USDA, didn’t take place, but commitment that USDA and Food Program willing to assist. Remember during big storm last year, they were able to help with nonperishable items. and so there are many things that i can say but give time to team, IHS Navajo Area Director Roselyn Tso will talk about 14 tested positive and getting resources to Navajo. Had big mtg with all IHS service units on telecom and difficult but trying to get everyone on same page, all 638s. understand five test kits to each service unit cuz of test kit shortage, food distribution which is six months behind. Basha’s buys water in bulk for summer and he said shortage during summer. what we ar saying to Navajo people. buy sparingly. Johnny said not much bulk buying on rez. There are people coming from Gallup to buy at Basha’s. Jil Jim report on … flea markets closed.

Tribes across the country are having problems accessing federal dollars. i love you navajo nation but listen to authority when they tell you to stay home. that is the best way to fight this virus. all the navajo people are praying for us.

SPEAKER DAMON we are back to debating Legislation 0063-20, which would appropriate $15,000 to each of the 110 chapters. President Nez said there’s a water shortage at Basha’s and Legislative Branch reached their limit. They won’t sell us anymore water. 30 minute recess to draft new exhibit for legislation 0063-20, which appropriates $15,000 to each of the 110 chapters.

DELEGATE RAYMOND SMITH amendment 1 to legislation to appropriate $15,000 to each chapter which would increase to $25,000 per chapter if the chapter has zero balance in their emergency budget. Chapters with balances in their budget that are less than $25,000, will get funds to being their emergency budget up to $25,000. Those chapter with more than $25,000 will not receive funding.

Council voting on Delegate Smith amendment one. It is now 5:08 pm. VOTE is 12 in favor, 8 opposed. Amendment one passes.

Council back to debating main motion on amended legislation. Council votes on appropriating more than $1.3M for 110 chapters. Vote was 16 in favor, 3 opposed. It is now $5:22 pm.

DELEGATE CARL SLATER suspend floor rules for 0066-20: have firstnet provide services for COVID-19 emergency, 0067-20: oppose AZ mail-in ballot, insist consultation with Navajo Nation before Az makes election changes; 0069-20: directing NM and President Nez to create Indian Manged Care entity for Medicare dollars for COVID-19 tests kits for Navajo people; 0071-20 direct Navajo Technical University board meet telephonically for 60 days; 0072-20: reaffirms public health emergency on Navajo Nation; 0068-20: addressing Naabi and standing committee.

DELEGATE DANIEL TSO thought add all bills to agenda and then address 0068-20 and then consider consent agenda for others. SPEAKER DAMON Delegate Slater withdrew 0068-20.

DELEGATE OTTO TSO Indian Health Service been waiting here all day. They have things to do or let them go. Otherwise they could be here until midnight.


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