The Council of the Cherokee Nation on Monday passed a resolution that allows Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. to expedite emergency contracts that will secure more protective equipment and supplies for tribal health care workers and food security for Cherokee elders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The approved resolution passed the Council of the Cherokee Nation 16-1, with the opposing vote coming from District 3 Tribal Councilor Wes Nofire.
With the passing of this resolution, Hoskin is authorized to temporarily execute certain contractual provisions that are ordinarily approved on a contract-by-contract basis at regular committee and council meetings, which can take at least 10 days to convene. Under the resolution, contracts are limited to COVID-19 pandemic emergency relief efforts, and include only contracts that are related to personal protective equipment; other medical supplies and equipment; software and other technology agreements to meet remote work and telemedicine requirements; and emergency food, supplies and equipment.
“This is a time that calls for cooperation and unity among government officials, and that’s what we are seeing in the Cherokee Nation,” said Deputy Speaker of the Tribal Council Victoria Vazquez. “Weeks of careful planning, consultation, revision and review led to potentially lifesaving measures approved by this Council.”
The resolution limits Hoskin’s authority to contracts for health supplies, technology and food relating only to the COVID-19 response that do not exceed $1 million, and that the Council will be notified of any contracts no later than one business day after being issued. The resolution is set to expire on June 15, or with the expiration of an Emergency Disaster Declaration, whichever comes first. The measure does not grant Chief Hoskin any additional budget authority beyond what a Council approves in the tribe’s budget.
The measure, which uses the Council’s constitutional authority to approve contractual provisions dealing with pledges of credit and sovereign immunity, was modeled on legislation the Council approved in 2018 to complete the construction of the new outpatient health facility in Tahlequah on time.
The Council also approved a change to the tribe’s budget, shifting more money to the tribe’s historic COVID-19 response effort. Funding included nearly $40 million for health care system, over $9 million to support the increased housing needs, and another $5 million to purchase supplies, food, and support public safety programs throughout the Cherokee Nation.
The budget measure also provided authority of up to $100 million for funds anticipated to come from the federal CARES Act, which earmarked $8 billion for COVID-19 recovery for tribal governments across the country. The actual amount of CARES Act funding for Cherokee Nation will be determined by the U.S. Department of Treasury, which could issue the funds within the next week.