Cherokee tribe using COVID-19 funds to improve health facilities

The Cherokee Nation will allocate COVID-19-related funding toward improving healthcare facilities.

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The Cherokee Nation will allocate COVID-19-related funding toward improving healthcare facilities.

Nancy Marie Spears, Reporter

The Cherokee Nation plans to construct or remodel 12 tribal buildings devoted to healthier outcomes as part of the tribe’s COVID-19 recovery plan. 

Using $25 million in CARES Act funds allocated to the tribe the projects will include a new health center for tribal employees in Tahlequah, PPE -personal protecting equipment- manufacturing sites in Hubert and Stilwell, drive-through public outreach health facilities in Stilwell, office space in  Catoosa and Muskogee, and food outreach and storage space in Vinita, Kansas, Belfonte and Jay, according to a Cherokee Nation press release.

According to the tribe’s press release, the PPE manufacturing site in Stilwell will employ around 20 employees and will also operate as a drive-through public health outreach facility, while the Hulbert PPE site will employ two to three employees. 

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in the release that the Cherokee Nation is putting the CARES money to “great use.” 

The money is part of $332 million the tribe received in May to help it recover from losses its  businesses and operations suffered due to the shutdown to contain the virus.

That is in contrast to the Kiowa Tribe that is struggling to allocate the funds. 

The Kiowa tribe’s Legislative and Executive branches have been engaged in a lengthy dispute over who has authority to distribute the CARES Act funding. This has led to the attempted impeachment of the tribe’s Chairman, Matthew Komalty. Charges for impeachment included mishandling CARES Act money along with four other charges. 

Around the beginning of the impeachment trial, an injunction was placed on the Chairman by the Legislative branch to prevent him from allocating any more funds for the tribe, which consequently froze the CARES Act money in banks, preventing tribal members from getting financial relief for weeks. 

After Komalty’s impeachment hearing was delayed, the Chairman was able to begin distributing funds to members as before. The Legislative Branch is still planning to move forward with the impeachment and recall process, but the trial is pending until additional documentation can be provided by the Legislature to afford the Chairman due process.

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.