Virginia Indian tribes to receive $2 million in federal COVID relief funds

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SUFFOLK, Va (WAVY) – Two tribes in Virginia are expected to receive approximately more federal COVID relief funds – one million for the Chickahominy and Nansemond tribal nations.

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The funds, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), are part of more than $83 million in funding of the Indian Community Block Grant from the U.S. Rescue Plan. The third funding round was announced on January 18.

“It is imperative that we continue to provide tribal communities with the resources necessary to protect the health and safety of their communities,” HUD Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman said. “With the funding HUD is providing today, we remain diligent in pursuing our mission to ensure that every person enjoys the safety of a healthy home and community. HUD will continue to strengthen partnerships with tribal communities to ensure that all communities receive equitable assistance.

When 10 On Your Side visited the Nansemond Tribe in Suffolk, chef emeritus Sam Bass showed off a leaky roof, a condemned chimney and an outdated kitchen.

Earlier in the pandemic, the Nansemonds used US bailout funds to buy four generators, boxes of hand sanitizer, masks and computers for school-age children. They mailed most of them to their 400 members scattered across the country.

They also provided vaccines and tests for about 50 people with federal funds.

“This money is really helping address some of these long-term systemic needs that we know exist in Indian Country,” said Heidi Frechette, deputy assistant secretary for Native American programs at HUD.

Frechette told 10 On Your Side that the pandemic has really highlighted the need in tribes across the country.

“I mean, if you don’t have access to running water, how do you wash your hands,” she asked. “If you’re in a house with 23 people, it’s a three or four bedroom house, how do you insulate?”

While most Nansemond members live above the poverty line, the community center where they provide services needs repairs to make it safe.

“It’s not just about our tribe, it’s about the community,” Bass told WAVY.

He would like to renovate and open a community kitchen.

“We try to be good stewards of our own money, we really want to be good stewards of the federal government’s money,” he added.

The tribe is also offering COVID-19 emergency rental assistance.

So far, HUD has awarded about $209 million to tribes across the country. There’s still about $71 million in funding left.

HUD expects a fourth round of allocations in the future.

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