Shondiin Silversmith

(Arizona Mirror) People across the Navajo Nation were hit with severe winter storms in January, resulting in heavy snow, flooding and mud that blocked and destroyed roads and isolated families from resources.

Because of the impact of those severe winter storms, the Navajo Nation will receive federal emergency aid to help the tribe recover.

President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in the Navajo Nation on April 11 in response to the severe winter storms and flooding the Navajo Nation experienced from Jan. 14 to Jan. 17.

This declaration makes federal disaster assistance available to supplement the tribe’s recovery efforts in the areas affected by the storms and flooding.

Following the declaration, federal funding is set to go to the tribe and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis, for emergency work and repairing or replacing facilities damaged by the storms and flooding, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Biden’s announcement is a significant step forward for the tribe’s effort to secure reimbursements of those funds and additional resources to support its communities, said Navajo Nation Council Speaker Crystalyne Curley.

“We are very grateful to the Biden-Harris Administration, FEMA, the Navajo Nation Washington Office, and all of our Navajo Nation employees for their efforts to help our Navajo communities,” Curley said.

The declaration comes months after the reservation was hit with winter storms that resulted in a state of emergency on Jan. 19. The state of emergency was established to cover the impacts of heavy snow, high winds, mud and flooding events across the Navajo Nation.

During its winter session in January, the Navajo Nation Council prioritized responding to the winter weather conditions impacting its communities.

The council passed legislation approving $3 million for the 110 Navajo Nation chapter governments’ emergency response accounts, and the Navajo Nation president signed the legislation into law on Jan. 27, which made the funds available to the chapter houses.

The Navajo Nation has the largest tribal land mass in the country, with more than 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, and is home to more than 170,000 people.

“We are grateful to the Biden Administration for issuing this disaster declaration,” said Justin Ahasteen, executive director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office. “This winter was particularly hard on the Nation, and the flooding blocked roads and isolated many families. We are hopeful that with the federal government’s help, we will now be able to rebuild.”

Benigno Ruiz of the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been appointed to coordinate federal recovery operations in the affected areas.

“Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the tribe and warranted by the results of further assessments,” the White House said in a statement.