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Tribal leaders on Tohono O'odham Nation say they're weeks away from needing federal help

Posted at 7:55 PM, Apr 12, 2020

"If we don't get some relief within the next two or three weeks, then it's going to be a very detriment to our continued ability to provide to our nation's members."

Tohono O'odham National Chairman, Ned Norris Jr., told KGUN9, like most other communities, they're dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 virus.

"Eight confirmed cases, hundreds of folks have been tested," Norris said.

No positive is a good thing, but Norris said the low number of positive cases in their tribe has been reason to remain optimistic.

Logistically, he said, the tribe is finding ways to curb the spread of infection, using vacant homes to quarantine anyone who poses a risk to others.

"What we're using those for is for folks to be able to self-isolate that aren't able to self-isolate in their current residence."

While some funds are being established for Native American tribes by the recent federal stimulus, Norris worries employees of smaller gaming operations won't qualify for assistance from the paycheck protection program.

"Smaller tribes, tribes that have less than 500 employees won't be eligible for those funds."

Norris said the Desert Diamond Casino, and other gaming operations are continuing to provide salaries and benefits to it's employees but admits, with casinos remaining closed, that help won't last long.

"You can only go so far with that, you can only continue to provide those salaries and those benefits so far."

Norris said appeals continue to be made to members of congress including both Senators from Arizona, in the meantime he says the tribe makes due with what it has.