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More paper applications for Navajo Nation financial assistance program on the way

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Office of the Controller is working toward releasing more paper applications for the tribe's hardship assistance program after shortages caused challenges for chapters and frustration among applicants.

The Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program launched on Oct. 26 with the availability of paper applications for enrolled members of the tribe who are 65 and older or who have disabilities.

An Oct. 26 press release from the controller's office states that only 3,000 applications were printed during the weekend, then distributed to the 110 chapters.

The delay was due to the application being printed on a certain type of paper – like a ballot – and because they are numbered to prevent fraud, the release states.

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Controller Pearline Kirk said the printing process continues and 200,000 applications will be made available to the chapters.

"This application process is not first-come-first-served. No matter when you apply, your application will be given equal treatment. Thank you for your understanding and patience during this time," Kirk said.

The controller's office reminds the public that paper applications are intended for the elderly and people with disabilities who "cannot fill out the application online."

"It is recommended that everyone who is able to apply online do so opposed to the hardcopy application. The website link for the online application will be available beginning Nov. 2," the release states.

Upper Fruitland Chapter staff help community members fill out applications for the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program on Oct. 26 at the Walter Collins Center.

Five chapters in San Juan County, when contacted by The Daily Times, reported they each received 20 applications on Oct. 26.

Upper Fruitland Chapter Manager Alvis Kee said when he arrived at the chapter house at about 7:30 a.m. on Oct. 26, there were a couple of residents waiting for applications.

But chapter staff did not start helping residents until 1 p.m. because Kee had to pick up the applications from an agency office in Shiprock. Chapter staff also set-up tables and personal protective barriers inside the Walter Collins Center, where they assisted residents in filling out applications.

"It was difficult because we didn't know what to tell the citizens. That was the most challenging part, trying to keep the community informed of what the expectations were and what the process was going to be," Kee said.

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Newcomb Chapter Manager Norman Benally expressed a similar sentiment about the hardship assistance program rollout.

"As far as our chapter, we haven't received any information in regard to processes and procedures and that's the frustrating part," he said.

At Naschitti Chapter, Carissa Wood and her staff are preparing for the next round of paper applications.

Wood, the chapter manager, said they have been collecting information from applicants so they can input those details after the forms are received this week.

"We're trying to alleviate the long wait," she 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.

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