Elaine Bethel-Fink

published on December 24, 2019 - 10:21 AM
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The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians has been awarded a $5 million federal grant to help build 25 new housing units for members of the tribe in eastern Madera County.

The money awarded to the tribe’s Indian Housing Authority is coming from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Indian Housing Block Grant Program.

“Decent, safe and affordable housing is a scarce and valuable resource for our tribe and community, and this can lead to unsanitary, unsafe and overcrowded dwelling conditions,”

Tribal Chair Elaine Bethel-Fink said in a press release.

“This grant will help us address some of these dire challenges.”

North Fork Rancheria was among a small number of federally recognized California tribes selected to receive a grant in this round of funding, and it matched the highest amount received by any tribal entity in the state.

“It is no secret there are serious housing issues in Indian country and more needs to be done,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a video announcing the awards. “These grants will be used to develop new affordable housing, rehabilitate existing housing units, upgrade infrastructure, and more. I’m particularly proud that these funds will also leverage additional resources to equip tribes with much-needed funding.”

In just the past few years, North Fork Rancheria’s Indian Housing Authority has acquired or constructed 13 housing units, rehabilitated another 114 units and provided emergency rental and down payment assistance for more than 75 units. The Tribe’s success over the years with various federal grant programs has helped it reshape the face of the small, remote foothills community of North Fork, the press release continues.

The Tribe has taken the lead in building, expanding, or refurbishing a tribal headquarters office, community center, family wellness youth center, the North Fork Volunteer Fire Station, the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) Social Services Building, its transportation and training center, solar units for low-income housing, a water storage tank, general store, the Sierra Mono Museum expansion and renovation and a future Cultural and Environmental Protection Center.

“This is yet another example of the North Fork Rancheria conducting vital economic and cultural work in Eastern

Madera [County],” County Supervisor Tom Wheeler said in the same press release. “They continue to be great partners for investing in various infrastructure projects in our community — and all without the benefit of casino revenues.”

“This grant provides critical funding to do something about the extreme housing needs of this region and state,” Paul Irwin, NFRIHA’s executive director who prepared the grant application and will oversee the construction project, also said in the release.

“More funding and resources are required, but this award is a huge step forward in our tribe’s 20-plus-year effort to address its housing and infrastructure needs.”

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