The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma announced Friday how more than $200 million dollars received through the CARES Act will be used.
“Our focus is to do the most good for our tribal members who have been impacted by the global pandemic,” said Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton. “The majority of the CARES funds we received have been allocated to tribal members all across the United States.”
Batton said the tribe received a total of $200.8 million from the federal government.
The money received will be split three ways with $112.8 million going to tribal member relief, $66.7 million going toward government operations stabilization, and $21.3 million toward future COVID-19 response.
“Chahta families will be supported in multiple ways,” Batton said.
Tribal members who have experienced loss of income or other financial hardship resulting from unemployment, furlough or layoff will be eligible for a one-time payment of $1,000 and will be required to provide proof and attest they have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.
Employed Choctaw Nation tribal members earning no more than double the National Poverty Guideline standards and who have experienced a reduction in income, either through a loss of hours worked or decrease in rate of pay, will be eligible to receive a one-time $250 allowance.
Families with children are eligible for a $400 one-time technology payment per eligible dependent to help with distance learning and a $300 per-eligible dependent, one-time student assistance program for clothing, masks, and other necessary school supplies.
Tribal elders are eligible to receive $200 monthly through December 2020 through the COVID-19 Elder Food Security Program and $500 a month for three months from the COVID-19 Elder Rental Assistance Relief Program.
Other COVID-19 relief programs include assistance for post-secondary students, tribal members on disability, small business relief, housing rental assistance for residents of tribal homes, and members currently enrolled in the Next Step Program.
“We looked at all of our current programs, and mainly we listened to our tribal members on where they have been impacted the most,” Batton said on how the tribe decided on where to use the funds.
Eligible tribal members can begin applying July 6 at www.choctawnation.com/covidrelief.
“That’s going to expedite it the most,” Batton said.
Members who do not have access to a computer can obtain “a very simple” one-page paper application from Choctaw Nation Community Centers across the 10.5-county area.
“We’re excited that we’re getting these dollars out to our tribal members,” Batton said.
Batton said although the tribe believes the funding it received was not enough, officials are still appreciative.
“Matter of fact, there’s a Harvard study that shows that this was not an adequate amount,” Batton said.
Batton said the allocation of funds were determined through the 2010 Census, in which only 24,000 of the more than 200,000 tribal members were counted.
Other tribes reportedly gave direct payments to all members. Batton said the Choctaw Nation took a different approach to focus on members who were greatly impacted by COVID-19.
“We focused on trying to meet all our age groups, basically from newborn to our elders,” Batton said. “Also, the Department of Treasury just released a statement where per capita payments are not allowed.”
Batton thanked the members of the tribal council for truly allocating the money to the benefit of tribal members.
“We’re going to do our best to do that,” Batton said.
James writes for McAlester News Capital, a CNHI LLC publication.