Vice President Nez advocates for increased funding for Navajo priorities to Congress

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Contact: Jared King
Communications Director
202-682-7390

For Immediate Release

Vice President Nez advocates for increased funding for Navajo priorities to Congress

WASHINGTON—On May 16, Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez urged Congress to increase funding for the Navajo Nation in the fiscal 2018 appropriations in testimony before the House of Representatives’ appropriators today on Capitol Hill.

There has been talk that the President’s fiscal 2018 budget request will contain cuts, which is to be released by the end of May.

Vice President Nez started his testimony by stating, “We did not have the benefit of the president’s 2018 budget request, but we encourage this subcommittee to hold the line against any proposed cuts.”

The vice president commended the subcommittee for increased funding in fiscal 2017, but also indicated that Indian Country is far from sufficient funding.

Vice President Nez also thanked appropriators for visiting the Navajo Nation in 2015.

The vice president then addressed natural resources, public safety, education, human services, health and the environment among the priority areas for increased funding.

The funding request for natural resources was for an additional $3.56 million. This amount adds funding for water resources, forest management and fish and wildlife.

The vice president then emphasized the need to resolve redevelopment of the Former Bennett Freeze area. The disastrous 1966 federal policy affected more than 12,000 Navajo citizens living in a 1.5 million-acre area located in the western portion in the Navajo Nation.This policy made it unlawful to repair homes, even to repair doors and rooftops.

“We are working to bring development back to the area, but it requires a huge amount of funding and, as a start, we requested about $20 million,” said Vice President Nez.

Under public safety, the vice president requested an additional $3 million. This amount was based on U.S. Department of the Interior guidelines, but Vice President Nez stated that, “We estimate that $74 million is needed to ensure proper public safety services.”

The Navajo Nation has about 11.4 patrol officers per 10,000 citizens, which is less than the national average of 24 officers per 10,000. Navajo requested an additional $1.47 million to increase the number of officers to close the gap. The Navajo Nation also requested an additional $1.47 million for detention facilities and $107,000 for courts that average 4,000 cases per year.

Vice President Nez thanked the subcommittee for the $63.7 million that went toward replacing of two Navajo schools and seven additional schools that are in the design phase.

However, the Vice President stated that “We need funding for 31 other Navajo Bureau of Indian Education schools that are in poor condition. We also encourage the committee to provide funding for our school bus routes.”

Approximately 85,000 students attend 244 schools located on and near the Navajo Nation. With the recent federal approval of the Dine’ School Accountability Plan, the Navajo Nation aims to improve its educational system while using Dine’ Content Standards.

“Our goal is to seek recognition as a State Education Agency, but we need sufficient funding to meet the standards,” said the vice president.

Under human services, the Navajo Division of Social Services provides services to many families, children and individuals. “We requested an additional $1.83 million in order to keep up with the increasing cost and inflation for social services and welfare assistance. Because our caseload per social worker does not meet national standards, we requested an additional $95,000 to hire more social workers,” said Vice President Nez.

In regards to Indian Health Service, the Navajo Nation is currently designing a new Alternative Rural Health Center which is projected to serve over 60,000 primary care visits per year.

“This facility provides a start, but with the outstanding priority list for Health Care Facilities Construction totaling $2.5 billion, we urge Congress to start funding at $170 million yearly so that we see construction in 14 years versus 20 years under the pre-2016 funding levels. We also urge Congress to continue support for the Special Diabetes Programs for Indians which has decreased blood sugar and cholesterol levels in American Indians and Alaskan Natives,” said Vice President Nez.

In regards to the environment, the Gold King Mine spill occurred almost two years ago.

“The farmers still have not been compensated for their loss. We encourage the committee to make it their goal to rectify this situation despite EPA’s recent legal decision to not compensate,” added Vice President Nez.

He also stated, “Navajo does receive other EPA funding for its programs and we encourage this committee to not cut funding for tribal environmental programs”

In his concluding remarks, the vice president said the priorities outlined by the Navajo Nation seek to strengthen the sacred treaty responsibility and trust relationship and assist the Navajo Nation in furtherance of self-sufficiency and tribal sovereignty.

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