PHOENIX—Rep. Greg Stanton today urged President Donald Trump to take immediate action to eliminate the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) local cost share to help the Navajo Nation fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez made the request nearly a month ago. The Trump Administration has not yet responded.
During that time, the Navajo Nation has experienced a more than 700 percent increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, and a more than 800 percent increase in deaths. It has become one of the hardest hit areas of the country with the third-highest infection rates nationwide after New York and New Jersey.
In a letter today, Stanton pressed the President to eliminate the cost share currently imposed on state, tribal and local governments to use FEMA funds that were made available when the President declared a national emergency and major disaster declaration for the state of Arizona. Last week, Stanton joined many of his colleagues in the House in urging the President to eliminate the cost share and shift 100 percent of the financial burden to the federal government.
“For far too long, the federal government has failed to meet its trust obligations to tribal communities, and that must change,” Stanton wrote. “Especially in this time of extraordinary need, the federal government has a duty to leverage the full weight of its resources to allow the Navajo Nation to direct more of its limited resources to combat the virus and other response efforts.”
Certain realities of living on the reservation makes tracing and combatting COVID-19 especially difficult. Many homes are located hours apart from one another and lack clean, running water or reliable electricity. Geographically, the Navajo Nation is the size of West Virginia.
Stanton calls the crisis on the Navajo Nation “a matter of life and death” and notes that time is of the essence.
His full letter is available here.