MONTREAL -- As early as next week, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) will begin to distribute funds to people and businesses in the community who have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

An Economic Relief Measures Fund in the amount of $9 million was approved by the Council on Wednesday. It will ensure that members of the community have access to basic needs as businesses haved closed and people are staying home from work.

“We’ve looked at where we’ve had extra funding in different areas and we’ve kind of compiled all of that funding that has been set aside for different programs,” said Council Chief Gina Deer. “We’re utilizing it at this time just to get us through.”

The plan is to make funds available as soon as possible and figure out which program each person’s situation corresponds with later.

“We’re utilizing some of the old numbers that we had from past experiences, whether it be 1990 or the ice storm, or different things, we’re trying to pool some information from that and kind of do some estimating,” Deer said. She added that the relief fund was created to ensure the community is taken care of for a minimum of 90 days.

“Then we’ll reassess as we go along,” she said. 

“The MCK is working closely with Tewatohnhi’saktha (Kahnawake’s Economic Development Commission) in this important initiative,” Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton wrote in a community release. “Several people have worked very hard and extremely quickly to have these measures put in place for those who need it.” 

Right now, the community is asking those who need assistance to phone in and explain their situation; a board of representatives has been created to oversee the fund’s distribution. 

“It’s moving relatively fast, we have a lot of needs as far as resources,” Deer said. “We’re trying to ensure that we can have enough to get through all of the calls and all the screening.” 

Amid the pandemic, some folks in Kahnawake have started putting their Christmas lights back up. 

“It’s nice to see and it’s just to try to brighten the mood,” Deer said. She added that parks are closed, but people are still taking strolls down streets and along the community’s bike path, all while maintaining an appropriate distance from one another.