The $1.52 billion budget is considerably higher than the current fiscal year's $1.16 billion budget which set the previous record, said Josh Newton, deputy executive director of Cherokee Nation Communications.

The Council of the Cherokee Nation has approved a record $1.52 billion general operating budget for fiscal year 2021, tribal officials announced Friday.

The $1.52 billion budget is considerably higher than the current fiscal year's $1.16 billion budget which set the previous record, said Josh Newton, deputy executive director of Cherokee Nation Communications.

Nearly 70% of the Cherokee Nation's general operating budget comes from federal funds, said Julie Hubbard, a tribal spokesperson.

The new budget was bolstered considerably by more than $300 million in CARES Act relief funds the tribe received to help with increased health care and other expenses needed to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

Hubbard said the general operating budget is separate from the tribe's gaming budget, which is funded by casino operations.

In addition to approving the budget, the council passed legislation designed to expand the Cherokee Nation's judicial and law enforcement capabilities in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

In a far reaching decision known as the McGirt case, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially restored reservation status to the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribes, giving them and the federal government increased authority over the prosecution of crimes within their territories.

“With today’s passage of the Cherokee Nation Reservation, Judicial Expansion and Sovereignty Protection Act, the Tribal Council has made clear that the Cherokee Nation is committed to affirming our sovereignty while taking the necessary steps to expand our capacity and resources in the wake of the McGirt decision,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.

“Alongside the recently established sovereignty commission, today’s action will enable us to ensure our law enforcement and public safety systems can continue to function effectively as we respond to this historic Supreme Court victory for Indian Country.”

The act approved by the council authorizes the expansion of Cherokee Nation’s judiciary, prosecution staff and marshal service to ensure adequate court, prosecution and law enforcement capacity, incarceration and rehabilitation services, as well as other important resources, officials said.

It also will allow certain Cherokee Nation agencies to enter into agreements and evaluate resources, and for courts to appoint referees who meet the Constitutional and statutory requirements for appointment.

The Cherokee Nation will be seeking additional federal funding to beef up staffing and provide resources for its expanded duties, Hubbard said.

“We will make adjustments to our budget for McGirt-related expenses based on the feedback from our new sovereignty commission,” Hoskin said.