A dispute over which groups were eligible to receive tribal aid funding led to a delay in communities receiving help.
The Navajo Nation has been hit with one of the country’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.
Communities have been diagnosed with COVID-19 at a higher rate than other populations, in part due to crowded homes and the need to travel to get basic supplies. And, the Nation’s government has had difficulty procuring medical supplies, healthcare workers, and financial aid.
As of Wednesday, the Nation had seen a total of 3,392 cases and 119 deaths.
Tribes in the U.S. were allocated $8 billion to help with coronavirus relief in late March, but the money’s disbursement had been delayed after more than a dozen tribes sued the government for including for-profit Alaska Native corporations in the aid package.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled earlier this month that the tribes should begin to receive the money now while part of the total would be withheld from the corporations until the court could further deliberate.
According to CNN, the Navajo Nation finally received its share of the funds – $600 million – on May 6. President Jonathan Nez said he planned to use the money for first responders’ equipment and on infrastructure to help prepare for future pandemics.
Nez also praised the efforts of celebrities and organizations that helped to bring awareness to the tribe’s struggles and sent help while aid was delayed–and who have continued to contribute.
“It’s very important for me to highlight the contributions of these movie stars and these partners and friends of the Navajo Nation in terms of getting food supplies and many other things to the Navajo people,” Nez said.
Here are some of those people and groups that have been involved in the efforts:
Actor Mark Ruffalo joined with Navajo entertainers to found a nonprofit, called Protect the Sacred, that is dedicated to channeling aid to the Nation.
Other celebrities like Ellen Degeneres, Paul Rudd, Taika Waititi, and Mark Hamill have worked with the nonprofit to produce public service announcements to bring attention to the outbreak.
Ellen Degneres And Portia de Rossi
Television personality Ellen Degeneres and her wife Portia de Rossi donated 240 face shields to the Nation through de Rossi’s company General Public to help with the lack of protective medical equipment on hand.
Actress Joely Fisher teamed up with Protect the Sacred to provide the community with pet food for 325 families.
Actor Sean Penn and his nonprofit CORE are working with Johns Hopkins University to deliver additional test kits to the Nation.
A GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $3.7 million for the Navajo and Hopi tribes after an Irish journalist encouraged her fellow citizens to remember a donation that meant a lot to them – the Choctaw people had sent $170 to Ireland in 1847 during the potato famine.
According to CNN, the fundraiser’s organizer estimated that, as of May 6, about a half a million of the campaign’s total came from the Irish.
Doctors Without Borders
The international medical nonprofit Doctors Without Borders sent nine volunteers to help with temporary hospitals on the reservation. The healthcare workers plan to stay at least through June and possibly longer if needed.
Many local groups have contributed to the Navajo Nation as well.
Members of two local carpenters’ unions and one in New Mexico delivered eight pickup trucks full of supplies, including 170 cases of water and 7,500 pounds of nonperishable food items.
St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix completed its largest ever single mobile pantry distribution last month when it brought 90,000 pounds of food to Tuba City to feed 2,000 families.
Swire Coca Cola, the company’s U.S. western division, donated 30,000 liters of water and two pallets of other beverages to the Nation.
As the communities continue to battle through the COVID-19 pandemic, President Nez extended the Nation’s state of emergency and the closure of government offices until June 7 despite economies reopening.
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