During the COVID-19 pandemic, working people across the United States have stepped up to help out their friends, neighbors and communities. In our new Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we'll showcase one of those stories every day. Here's today's story.
Mine Workers (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts:
The coronavirus pandemic that has struck the United States has brought death and economic devastation in multiple regions, but none more so than the Navajo Nation, which has surpassed New York City as the region with the most COVID-19 cases per capita in America. We represent many thousands of Navajo workers, and our prayers are with those who have lost family members and those who are still struggling with this disease.
It is very troubling that critical federal support and supplies that were intended to go to the Navajo Nation were delayed or misdirected. The federal government has a special responsibility to provide support to Native American nations, many of which already suffered from chronic public health issues long before this virus showed up. Simply put, our government failed them.
For many Navajo families, this could not come at a worse time. With the needless and premature closure of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) at the end of last year, hundreds of workers at that plant and the Kayenta coal mine that fed the NGS were thrown out of work. They were already suffering, and now many have lost family members or are caring for severely sick relatives, while trying to keep the virus from spreading even further in their families.
The loss of revenue to the Navajo Nation government from the NGS and Kayenta closures already had a severe impact on the resources it has available to provide for its people before the virus hit. Now, the situation is desperate. I call on the United States government to rapidly increase the level of assistance that is going to the Navajo Nation and all tribal governments.
This disease is especially strong in those communities which already had health issues and a history of poor access to health care facilities, which is true in most rural areas of the country. As we bring more resources to bear to fight this virus throughout the country, we cannot continue to leave rural America behind.