The Cherokee Nation plans to speed up repair work on homes that belong to tribal citizens.
The incoming Chief announced a $30 million project to fix hundreds of homes, and some Cherokee community buildings. Over $22 million will be directed in rehabilitation or replacement of homes.
Chief-Elect Chuck Hoskin said he'll direct more of the profits from Cherokee Nation businesses into clearing away a backlog of needed repairs.
The tribal council plans to introduce the legislation once the new administration takes office, and Hoskin said he'll get the project moving quickly.
The Chief-Elect made the announcement in Claremore, where Cherokee Nation just finished replacing a roof and air conditioner at the home of Lola McKinzie, a widow who said she couldn't afford to pay for the work.
"When you're still making a house payment, and still paying utilities, every penny counts. And I thought, how am I going to get that done?" McKinzie said.
McKinzie waited a year for the repairs, and Hoskin said the tribe has a list of 668 other homes needing repairs. The work is expected to take three years, but Hosking said waiting for the federal government to fund it would take even longer.
"We're not going to do that. We're Cherokees, we're going to take care of our people, and we're going to do that today,” Hosking said.
There are homes on the list from each of the tribe's 14 county area, but Cherokee, Adair, Sequoyah and Delaware counties have the most.
Tribal Councilor Canaan Duncan, from Adair County, said most of the homes on the list were built in the 1970's, are owned by older people, and need significant repairs.
"Whether there is lead based paint in the home, adequate plumbing, safe electrical outlets, a roof, air conditioning, things that are essential for the safety of the home,” Duncan said.
The Chief-Elect said the remaining funds will be used for community buildings, and some will be improved with solar panels, and internet access.
"Cherokee Nation has an opportunity here to lead in the area of sustainability, and we have the opportunity to meet a responsibility to our elders, our disabled Cherokees who have been waiting too long on the list to get their homes rehabbed," said Hoskin.
McKinzie said without repairs, she could not have renewed her home insurance.
"You don't realize, what it means to know that you have that security, you've got your home now, you've got insurance, you've got everything,” McKinzie said.
The Cherokee waiting list is expected to be enough to use up the money available, but citizens can apply through Cherokee Housing anytime and be added to the waiting list.