The Council of the Cherokee Nation passed a resolution last week that will allow Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. to expedite emergency contracts that will secure more protective equipment and supplies for tribal health-care workers and food security for Cherokee elders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The approved resolution passed the council by a vote of 16-1. The opposing vote came from District 3 Tribal Councilor Wes Nofire.
With the passing of this resolution, Hoskin is authorized to temporarily execute certain contractual provisions that are ordinarily approved on a contract-by-contract basis at regular committee and council meetings, which can take at least 10 days to convene. Under the resolution, contracts are limited to COVID-19 pandemic emergency relief efforts and include only contracts that are related to personal protective equipment (PPE), other medical supplies and equipment, software and other technology agreements to meet remote work and telemedicine requirements and emergency food, supplies and equipment.
“This is a time that calls for cooperation and unity among government officials, and that’s what we are seeing in the Cherokee Nation,” Victoria Vazquez, deputy speaker of the Tribal Council, said. “Weeks of careful planning, consultation, revision and review led to potentially lifesaving measures approved by this council.”
The resolution limits Hoskin’s authority to make contracts for health supplies, technology and food relating only to the COVID-19 response that do not exceed $1 million, and requires that the council be notified of any contracts no later than one business day after being issued. The resolution is set to expire June 15, or with the expiration of an Emergency Disaster Declaration, whichever comes first. The measure does not grant Hoskin any additional budget authority beyond what a council approves in the tribe’s budget.
The measure, which uses the council’s constitutional authority to approve contractual provisions dealing with pledges of credit and sovereign immunity, was modeled on legislation the council approved in 2018 to complete the construction of the new outpatient health facility in Tahlequah on time.
“I appreciate the council for its consideration in these measures to ensure our citizens are taken care of while we continue to battle this public health crisis,” Hoskin said. “The council and I both understand that our citizens and constituents come first, and we need to act fast in retrieving goods to help keep our Cherokee elders fed and make sure our health-care employees and first responders have the tools they need to protect themselves while they can continue to care for our citizens. I am truly proud to work with this council.”
“The last time the council approved such a measure, the completion of a construction project was at stake,” Hoskin said. “Today, the lives and health of Cherokee people are at stake. (The) council’s overwhelming support of the measure is essentially a vote of confidence in how we have handled the COVID-19 crisis, and I deeply appreciate it,” he said.
The council also approved a change to the tribe’s budget, shifting more money to the tribe’s historic COVID-19 response effort. Funding included nearly $40 million for the health-care system, more than $9 million to support the increased housing needs and another $5 million to purchase supplies, food and support public safety programs throughout the Cherokee Nation.
The budget measure also provided the authority of up to $100 million for funds anticipated to come from the federal CARES Act, which earmarked $8 billion for COVID-19 recovery for tribal governments across the country. The actual amount of CARES Act funding for the Cherokee Nation will be determined by the U.S. Department of Treasury, which could issue the funds within the next week.
The council met Monday to discuss tribal business for the first time since it stopped in-person meetings amid the COVID-19 outbreak. While some council members dialed into the meeting using a video conferencing system, others wore face masks and gloves and sat 6 feet away from one another to comply with social-distancing regulations.
In other business, the Council of the Cherokee Nation also took the following actions:
*Passed a resolution opposing the inclusion of Alaska native corporations in the CARES Act coronavirus relief fund for tribal governments.
*Confirmed the nomination of Clifton Pettit as a governing board member of the TSUNADELOQUASDI Cherokee Immersion school board.
*Approved a resolution in support of indigenous language rights specified in the National Congress of American Indians resolution.
The next Council of the Cherokee Nation meeting will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, May 28, in the Tribal Council offices at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah.
KXMX News Staff
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