Navajo Nation's financial relief program readies to launch for initial group

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Enrolled members of the Navajo Nation who are 65 and older or who have disabilities will be first to apply for the tribe's hardship assistance program, starting on Oct. 26.

A press release from the controller's office states that paper applications for the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program will be available at that time.

"The Office of the Controller urges family members, chapters and senior citizens center staff to help the elders apply for the hardship assistance program," the release states.

The controller's office is the tribal government entity managing the program.

Volunteer Terence Suina, left, helps load some essential items during a distribution event by the Tooh Haltsooí Chapter on April 24 in Sheep Springs. Chapter governments have been helping residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Subsequent information released by the controller's office states that applicants can visit their chapter house to complete the paper application or to access the online application.

The hardship assistance program was developed to help enrolled members who have been hurt financially due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The program rollout is being done in two phases. The first starting Monday, followed by the second phase, which is geared toward the general population of enrolled members, will start on Nov. 2 and through an online portal.

Applications are due on Nov. 30.

For more information about the program, visit the controller's office website at www.nnooc.org/CARESHelp.html or email NNCaresHelp@nnooc.org.

Tooh Haltsooí Chapter employees, officials and volunteers assembled packages of food and other items to give to chapter members on April 24 in Sheep Springs. Chapter governments have been helping residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Right now, the program has approximately $49.4 million allocated to it.

The amount comes from the money the tribe received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the federal aid package to help workers, families, businesses and governments staggered by the pandemic.

Tribal officials have said there is the potential for more dollars to go toward the hardship assistance program from projects and departments that have not used CARES Act funding.

Members of the Navajo Nation Council have taken steps this week to secure those unused amounts by introducing legislation to complete that action.

The bill – Legislation No. 0261-20 – states that funding for any project that has not made enough progress to demonstrate that it will be fully completed by Dec. 30 will be reallocated to the fund.

Controller Pearline Kirk mentioned the potential for the fund to increase in the press release from her office.

"There are many projects funded by CARES Act funds but there is no time to complete them and the compliance reporting is extensive. We need to spend the funds quickly and we need to sweep our efforts into expending hardship assistance project funds and provide much-needed funds to the Navajo people," Kirk said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription to The Daily Times.