WHITERIVER – Good news came to The White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Housing Authority last week when they were awarded $3 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to construct eight transitional housing units for COVID-19 patients and their families.

WMAT Awarded $3 million from HUD

Testing positive for the coronavirus with no quarantine housing available, the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s empty Hon-Dah Resort Casino & Conference Center is now the quarantine site for tribal members. $3 million awarded in HUD funds will help build tribal quarantine needs

According to a July 2 press release from HUD, the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT) was one of sixteen tribes across the nation who were awarded a total of $15 million out of $100 million allocated for tribes through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Monies distributed are specifically to be used by the tribes to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.

Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 on the reservation, and no quarantine housing available for tribal members, WMAT’s Housing Authority made a request on June 1 for federal funds to build quarantine housing. In the meantime, with the tribe’s Hon-Dah Resort Casino & Conference Center’s operations temporarily suspended, the hotel was designated as the isolation and quarantine site for tribal members who tested positive.

A news release by the tribe’s housing authority stated there would be eight total units constructed. Four units would be in McNary with the remainder in Cibecue on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. Each unit will have three bedrooms, be built on raw land close to existing infrastructure and have a 6-foot chain link fence.

The news release also stated, “Once the threat of COVID-19 has passed, the homes will be used for temporary housing for low-income tribal members who are homeless, or who are otherwise in transition while their homes need substantial repairs.”

The building project was to begin this month and be completed by June 2021 but is now on hold due to tribal closure.

WMAT Tribal Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood issued a press release on June 22 announcing a 57-hour lockdown to begin on June 26 at 8 p.m. through June 29 at 5 a.m. Immediately following the lockdown a week of sheltering-in-place began with extended closure of all non essential tribal offices.

Extremely hard hit by the virus, as of July 8, the tribe confirmed 1,982 COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths.

“From helping tribes build more affordable housing to building a place where families can go to quarantine, this funding will help Native Americans persevere during this unprecedented time,” said R. Hunter Kurtz, assistant secretary for public and Indian housing.

WMAT was the only Tribe in Arizona to receive quarantine funds.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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