Wed. Sep 28th, 2022

The previous two years of the worldwide pandemic have uncovered monumental vulnerabilities in public well being and infrastructure world wide. Sadly, for these of us within the Indian nation, these vulnerabilities have been significantly widespread and significantly extreme. Within the Cherokee Nation, our elders—who play a significant position in preserving our id, traditions and tradition—have confronted a number of the best dangers of their lifetimes. And too many instances tribal reservations haven’t been given equal entry to very important assets to guard our residents and preserve the economic system working, as a result of our common life has stopped.

Luckily, a 12 months in the past this month, the US Congress handed and President Joe Biden signed a landmark invoice that helped the Indian nation not solely face this disaster however turn into extra resilient earlier than the following. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) stored Cherokee households and communities secure and laid the muse for a greater future.

It did so by recognizing that sovereign tribal governments are finest suited to satisfy the wants of their communities as a result of they’re those who take care of these wants day by day. As a substitute of imposing options on them, tribes got a full seat on the desk to make sure that investments had been used successfully and properly.

The sovereign authorities of the Cherokee Nation certified for $1.8 billion out of the US rescue plan’s whole funding of $350 billion. These {dollars} had been essential to fight COVID-19 on our reservation in Northeast Oklahoma. From strengthening our well being care system to offering emergency meals help, defending jobs, supporting distance studying and extra, the American rescue plan delivered in instances of nice want.

About half the quantity was distributed as private help to tribal residents. $2,000 was issued to every Cherokee who utilized. The cost introduced a lot wanted reduction to our residents throughout the worst months of the pandemic.

{Dollars} had been additionally put aside to pay our workforce of greater than 4,300 staff in rural Oklahoma after they had potential COVID publicity and wanted to put aside for security protocols. We additionally invested in “premium pay” for important employees who labored in public settings.

With ARPA {dollars}, we now have been in a position to prioritize each bodily and behavioral well being care. A part of our allocation enhances our personal efforts to construct a brand new hospital for the Cherokee Nation Well being System, the most important tribally operated well being system within the nation. Our present hospital is woefully outdated and undersized for immediately’s affected person inhabitants. As soon as the brand new hospital is operational, the previous location can be transformed as a middle for our psychological well being and dependancy remedy companies.

Different investments helped decrease studying boundaries for Cherokee college students. As colleges moved to on-line lessons, we distributed lots of of wi-fi Web hotspots to Cherokee households with Okay-12 college students. We constructed free Wi-Fi entry factors and proceed to develop broadband entry to our largely rural 7,000 sq. mile reservation so Cherokee households can work and study within the security of their dwelling group.

The pandemic has required all of us to pay additional consideration to our most elementary wants, and maybe essentially the most primary of all, to have sufficient nutritious meals. The Cherokee Nation organized a number of drive-thru meals supply occasions throughout our reservations. These occasions have delivered hundreds of thousands of meals to households who misplaced their jobs, or different relations moved throughout the financial hardship of the pandemic.

President Joe Biden speaks concerning the US rescue plan on February 22, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Saul Loeb/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Along with meals, we all know {that a} secure place to dwell is the muse of a safe household unit. So we have additionally invested in housing for susceptible populations, together with older adults who’re fluent first-language audio system. Now we have constructed new houses and helped households on hire. It has enabled Cherokee to quarantine extra simply when wanted, and it has helped us rescue survivors of home violence conditions.

COVID-19 has left a mark on our area and your complete world, however we proceed to put money into a manner that may assist us develop even stronger. I’m significantly pleased with our ARPA funding in workforce coaching. Staff displaced by the pandemic are studying new extremely sought-after abilities that typically result in higher paying jobs.

The American Rescue Planning Act was a life saver for the Cherokee nation and our over 400,000 Cherokee residents. Now we have been accountable managers of these {dollars} to help households, guarantee entry to well being care and schooling, and shield jobs. Nonetheless, the work just isn’t achieved. Because the Cherokee Nation and our neighbors in Northeast Oklahoma draw nearer to life after the pandemic, we’re dedicated to creating that life extra affluent, wholesome, sustainable, and prepared to reply to every thing that comes our manner.

Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the top of state of the Cherokee Nation.

The views expressed on this article are these of the creator.

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