Tribes Also Vying For Stimulus Money

Monday, February 9th 2009, 10:34 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TAHLEQUAH, OK -- Native American tribes stand to benefit from the proposed stimulus package.  They could receive as much as $3 billion, millions of which is expected to find its way to Oklahoma.

While state and city governments vie for billions of dollars in stimulus money, tribal leaders across the country are lobbying for their fair share.  Of course, nothing is a done deal, but they could end up with an estimated $3 billion.

"It's very important to stimulate the economy, get the economy back on track, the tribes are on the front line to get the money out to rural areas," said Cherokee Senior Legislative Officer Paula Ragsdale.

As Senior Legislative Officer for the Cherokee Nation, Paula Ragsdale has been in DC talking stimulus with congressional leaders.  She is not sure how much the Cherokees will get, but there is plenty of need for the money.

"One of the priorities is to create jobs, so this stimulus is coming at a perfect time and fits in with our strategy," said Cherokee Senior Legislative Officer Paula Ragsdale.

That strategy includes road improvements projects, more money for law enforcement, and replacing crumbling buildings at Cherokee schools.

"So they are ready to go.  All that's needed is the funding to get them off the ground," said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Melanie Knight.

Cherokee Nations Secretary of State Melanie Knight says that funding won't necessarily come from the state's stimulus money, and it's only right that the tribes receive their fair share.

"Indian Country has the same type of capacities and needs, and should participate as full partners should any economic stimulus package come to fruition," said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Melanie Knight.

While it is feeling the effects of the recession, the Cherokee Nation says it's better off than other tribes.

Congressional leaders say some are facing unemployment rates as high as 50%.