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


SUFFOLK, Va (WAVY) — Two Virginia tribes are set to receive about more federal COVID relief funds – one million to both 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 from the Indian Community Block Grant of the American Rescue Plan. The third round of funding was announced on January 18.

“It is imperative that we continue providing Tribal communities with resources needed to protect the health and safety of their communities,” said HUD Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman. “With the funding HUD is awarding today, we remain diligent in continuing our mission to ensure that every person has the security of a healthy home and community. HUD will continue to strengthen partnerships with Tribal communities to ensure that all communities receive equitable relief.”

When 10 On Your Side visited the Nansemond tribe in Suffolk, Chief Emeritus Sam Bass showed a leaking roof, a condemned fireplace and an outdated kitchen.

Earlier in the pandemic, the Nansemond used American Rescue Plan funds to purchase four generators, boxes of hand sanitizer, and masks, and computers for school-aged children. Most of it they mailed to their 400 members scattered across the nation.

They also provided vaccines and testing to around 50 people using federal funds.

“This money really helps to address some of those long-term systemic needs we’ve known existed in Indian country,” said Heidi Frechette, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Native American Programs with HUD.

Frechette told 10 On Your Side that the pandemic really highlighted the need in tribes nationwide.

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

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

“It’s not only 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 want to be definitely good stewards of the federal governments money,” he added.

The tribe also offers COVID-19 emergency rental assistance.

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

HUD expects a fourth round of allocations in the future.

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