Cherokee Nation Provides Dislocated Workers With Employment Through U.S. Department of Labor Grant

Cherokee Restore Program workers
L-R: Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.; Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley; Restore Program participant Chad Hayes; and General Manager Mike Keener stand outside of the Cherokee Nation PPE manufacturing facility in Stilwell.

TAHLEQUAH, OK – The Cherokee Nation has provided more than 265 displaced workers with stable employment during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to millions of dollars from a U.S. Department of Labor grant and new programs the tribe started to create more jobs.

The Cherokee Nation Reservation experienced a series of dislocated workers starting in 2020 from the COVID-19 pandemic and unstable economy. The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced its Employment and Training Administration awarded the Cherokee Nation $5.6 million in total funds to help the tribe during the public health crisis.

“It was essential that our Cherokee people have good quality, stable jobs to support their families during this global crisis, and these federal funds certainly had a hand in helping us to achieve this mission,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Together, we have been able to provide the necessary services and jobs to get through these hardships and help our citizens find new careers.”

The Cherokee Nation established two PPE manufacturing facilities and a meat processing plant during the pandemic to provide essential needs to Cherokee families and also create new jobs. Several dislocated workers were placed in those facilities for staffing. 

Chad Hayes, 34, of the Rocky Mountain community near Stilwell was working construction and without work for four months after the pandemic hit because most construction halted. He’s been working as a machine operator at the Cherokee Nation’s PPE facility in Stilwell since February 2021.

“I was just staying at home and waiting for construction jobs and told ‘we’ll let you know if we find something,’ said Hayes. “Basically, I gave up on that and found the job in the Restore program. It’s worked out having a steady job, being so close to home and the hours are great because I have a daughter that goes to school, and I can drop her off every day and pick her up, so that helps out a whole lot too.” 

The Cherokee Nation also placed dislocated workers as COVID screeners and other related positions during the pandemic.

The Cherokee Nation’s Career Services department oversees the grant, referred to as the Restore program. The grant began in August 2020 for citizens who are directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19 and “displaced” from their previous employment. The tribe has used $4.3 million in funding so far for job opportunities. 

“The additional $1.3 million allows us to continue the operation of this vital Restore program which has been extremely beneficial to our citizens,” said Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “We will continue to use these funds to deliver employment, training services and jobs for our people during difficult times.”

According to the Department of Labor, the grant is one of 64 COVID-19 Dislocated Worker Grants awarded by the department to help address the workforce-related effects of the coronavirus public health emergency.