Published On: Wed, Aug 5th, 2020

EBCI being “strategic and compliant” with millions in CARES Act funds

 

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) has received millions in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funds and related funding – all being used to aid tribal members and the local economy during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.  Tribal leaders and officials have broken up the monies into several main categories for funding including: connectivity; tribal member basic needs; supplies, equipment, and facilities; tribal member financial assistance; employment costs; and business stimulus.

“I would characterize the rollout of CARES Act funding as being forward thinking, strategic and compliant,” said Cory M. Blankenship, EBCI Secretary of Treasury.  “I think many tribes have rushed their processes where we have taken extra steps to ensure compliance with published guidance as to the use of funds. EBCI has also been very careful to make decisions that are forward looking as we cannot predict the end of this pandemic.”

Information from the EBCI Treasury Division states that the Tribe’s funding eligibility was based on several factors including land base, number of tribal members, total payroll of the tribal government and tribal entities, and total expenditures of the tribal government and tribal entities for FY2019.  “In all, the EBCI is tracking approximately $67 million in available funding for the EBCI through both the CARES Act direct funding and through an increased number of grant opportunities for which the Tribe is eligible.”

The Tribe has set up a page on its official website where tribal members can apply for various types of assistance online: https://ebci.com/government/covid-19/covid-19-assistance/

Information from the EBCI Treasury Division states that connectivity is one focus for the funding and amounts to around $18,000,000 (29 percent of total).  “As the result of stay-at-home orders, the closure of Cherokee Central Schools and surrounding county schools, and the likelihood of modified school schedules for the upcoming school year, the EBCI has identified connectivity as a primary need in response to COVID-19.  The allocation toward connectivity will be geared toward delivering high-speed internet throughout the community to give tribal members and residents of the Qualla Boundary increased access to critical technology to support tele-education, tele-medicine, and tele-work functionality.”

Other funding allocations include: tribal member basic needs, $5,187,500 (8 percent); supplies, equipment, and facilities, $5,625,000 (9 percent); tribal member financial assistance ($6,550,000 (10 percent); entity allocations, $24,790,191 (39 percent); business stimulus, $1,200,000 (2 percent); and reserve for future use, $1,612,117 (3 percent).

Secretary Blankenship added, “Our goal is to ensure the highest and best use of these funds. We are very blessed, as a tribal nation, to be in the position we are in and the CARES Act funding helps ensure we have the best resources possible to assist our citizens in navigating this evolving public health crisis. We know there are many obstacles that lie ahead for our community and the nation. We greatly appreciate our citizens’ patience as we work to expand and enhance programming to serve the needs of our community.”

Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed commented in a video presentation on the Tribe’s CARES Act funding, “We have gone about this in the same way that we go about everything else with two things in mind.  The number one being strategic and number two being a good steward.”

Information from the Office of the Principal Chief outlines some of the Tribe’s CARES Act assistance programs including:

  • Lighten Up Assistance Fund (EBCI Family Support Program 359-6092) 

– $500 one-time electricity bill payment assistance

– Must live within five-county service area of Tribe

– One payment per household

– No dependency nor income requirements

  • TANF Program expansions (EBCI TANF 497-4317) 

– $300 per person in monthly payments

– Must be actively seeking and applying for employment and must have been laid-off, furloughed, or out-of-work

– Must have custody of minor(s) or be age 60+

  • Burial Assistance Program (EBCI Family Support Program 359-6092) 

– $3,000 in additional funeral funding and death must be attributed to COVID-19

– No residency requirement

  • Caregivers Assistance Fund (EBCI Family Safety Program 359-1520) 

– $500 one-time payment for foster parents to care for a COVID-19 positive child

– No residency requirement

  • Minor Assistance Program (EBCI Finance 359-6000) 

– $500 one-time payment per EBCI enrolled minor living in the home as of Aug. 1

– Applicant for assistance must be primary care provider

  • Executive COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Program (Office of the Principal Chief 359-7002 or Office of the Vice Chief 359-7005) 

– $300 weekly payment for individuals with additional $50 per child amount up to four children

– Must be advised to quarantine or isolate due to a positive COVID-19 test or direct contact

– Must be ineligible for paid time off

  • Higher Education Emergency Fund (EBCI Higher Education Program 359-6650) 

– Student must be negatively affected by COVID-19

– Assistance for state quarantine requirements with additional requests considered

  • Housing Assistance Program (EBCI Housing & Community Development 359-6906) 

– Waived rental fees from Housing and Qualla Housing for laid-off, furloughed, or tenants directed to quarantine or isolate

 

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