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Published on June 20, 2024
Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren Signs Monumental Legislation to Jump-Start Infrastructure with ARPA FundingSource: The Navajo Nation Office of the President

In a significant step toward enhancing infrastructure on Navajo land, President Buu Nygren put pen to paper on legislation that sanctions the appropriation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in a way that will potentially double the number of projects intended to improve living conditions across the Navajo Nation. This strategy, designed to maximize the utility of federal dollars, revolves around the establishment of a Revenue Replacement Reserve that will hold $521.8 million of ARPA funding. This was reported by the Navajo Nation's Office of the President and Vice President on June 19th.

While signing the comprehensive fiscal package, President Nygren exercised a line-item veto on certain components of the proposal, aimed to ensure that only those projects with equity and profit-sharing agreements in place, and not hindered by expired deadlines, are powered by these funds. As outlined in a statement obtained by the Office of the President and Vice President, President Nygren said, "It’s the first time the Navajo Nation has taken federal money, come up with creative solutions to convert it to our own money that’s unrestricted."

The initiative diverts substantial monies to several critical constructions, such as the allocation of $137.3 million for key wastewater structure projects in communities including Kayenta and Shiprock, and $62.9 million earmarked for the creation of roughly 210 homes overseen by the Community Housing and Infrastructure Department. These allocations contribute to the President and Navajo Nation Council Speaker Crystalyne Curley's mutual goal to fully utilize all ARPA funding without returning a penny to the U.S. Treasury.

The move not only averts any possible reversion of funds to the federal reserve, but it also strategically aligns with U.S. Treasury regulations for ARPA funds usage. Initiating the creation of a trust fund is the Council's forthcoming step, which, once established, will pave the way for borrowing against the Revenue Replacement Reserve to further amplify the number of infrastructural ventures. Navajo Nation's fiscal mechanism, which President Nygren said, in a statement, "Instead of just having $300-to-$400 million, let’s borrow money on that to potentially have $800 million to a billion dollars and pump that back into our communities."

As momentum picks up following this key legislation, the room during the signing was a gathering of key figures who have been instrumental in this fiscal orchestration. Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Deputy General Manager Rex Kontz, Navajo Nation Controller Sean McCabe, who designed the plan, and Fiscal Recovery Fund Office Director Lisa Jymm were among those in attendance, all witnessing what McCabe called, according to the Office of the President and Vice President, “It’s a pretty monumental task for my first year but I’m glad to be a part of it.”

The diligent work schedule of the Navajo Nation Council and the Budget & Finance Committee, along with their consistent collaboration since January, has been instrumental in the development of these reforms to protect unspendable ARPA funds from expiring unused by the deadline of December 31, 2024. According to Speaker Curley, expressed in a definite manner, "These regional projects are immensely critical to our communities and future progress. We had to act to protect these dollars."