Biden approves federal aid for Navajo Nation over COVID-19

United States President Joe Biden has issued a disaster declaration for the Navajo Nation over the coronavirus pandemic, a move that unlocks much-needed federal financial assistance and other support for the Indigenous community.

In a news release on Wednesday, the White House said the approval authorises the distribution of funds under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support the Nation’s efforts to combat COVID-19.

“Federal funding is available to the Navajo Nation and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, for the entire Tribe impacted by COVID-19,” the White House said.

Navajo Nation leaders welcomed the move, which they said had been “long-awaited”.

“Our administration has advocated for the declaration for quite some time. This is a great step forward and now we have to step up our efforts and coordinate with FEMA,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement.

The Navajo Nation, which spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, and counts a population of more than 170,000 residents within that area, has been one of the hardest-hit communities in the southwestern US during the pandemic.

According to the latest figures, there are currently more than 28,000 active cases of COVID-19 on Navajo Nation territory, and 1,032 deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported to date.

Navajo Nation leaders have imposed a daily curfew from 9pm to 5am in an effort to stem the potential spread of infections.

In its statement, the Navajo Nation said it expects FEMA to help with COVID-19 vaccine distribution and provide medical equipment as well as medical personnel to administer vaccine doses and treat COVID-19 patients.

 

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