Groups create fund to aid hard-hit tribal communities

April 21, 2020
In The News

An emergency relief fund has been created to help New Mexico’s tribal communities hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nonprofit groups and state government leaders teamed up to launch the Native American Relief Fund, which will provide emergency grants to organizations serving the state’s hardest-hit tribal communities, including the Navajo Nation and the Zuni, Zia and San Felipe pueblos.

“This fund will help get dollars where they are needed most to bring food, water and medical supplies to communities,” state Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-Albuquerque, said in a news release. “However, this is not just a one-time response. We need everyone who can to rally and support this effort.”

These funds will assist in a variety of ways. Many Native American families already face challenges such as poverty, food shortages and lack of running water and electricity, complicating emergency responses to the pandemic.

Some tribal residents are far from cities and lack cellphone service and broadband access, which slows the sharing of vital health information. In some areas, meal programs and water services were shut down to protect public health, forcing many families to drive for hours to get food and drinkable water.

The organizations involved in launching the fund include the New Mexico Foundation, the Santa Fe Community Foundation, Navajo-Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund and the Thornburg Foundation, which will donate $50,000 to help jump-start it.

Stansbury, U.S. Rep Deb Haaland and state Indian Affairs Secretary Lynn Trujillo are among the government leaders championing the program. “Leveraging the help of our philanthropic and nonprofit partners will enable us to respond rapidly to meet the immediate needs of our families and also protect our communities from further exposure,” said Bill Smith, president and CEO of the Santa Fe Community Foundation.