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Thousands apply for Navajo Nation financial assistance program but many face glitch

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — While thousands of enrolled members of the Navajo Nation have filed applications for the tribe's hardship assistance program, many are having trouble starting the process.

In a Nov. 5 press release, the Office of the Controller acknowledged there has been an issue with logging in to the portal for the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program, which launched online this week.

"This is not a portal issue but an issue that is being resolved with the Office of Vital Statistics within the Navajo Division of Human Resources," the release states.

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The release explains that Certificate of Indian Blood enrollment numbers and dates of birth are being used to verify the applicant's identity before access is granted to the portal.

While this is being done to avoid the applicant having to upload supporting documentation, it can result in the applicant receiving a message stating, "invalid login," despite them being an enrolled member because their information is not in the database managed by the Office of Vital Statistics.

Employees with Upper Fruitland Chapter help community members apply for the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program on Oct. 26 at the Walter Collins Center in Upper Fruitland.

"The issue with a lack of available vital statistics data stems from a recent data loss at the Navajo Nation Office of Vital Statistics and a lack of consistent updating over the course of several years," Controller Pearline Kirk said in the release.

On its website, the vital statistics office states it is aware that enrollment numbers are not being recognized and it is working with the controller's office to resolve the issue.

According to the release, the controller's office is helping the vital statistics office with additional resources to address the issue.

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The hardship assistance program was developed by Navajo officials to use a portion of the money the tribe received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to help enrolled members who have been hurt financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

The controller's office reminds tribal members that the program is not first come, first served and the deadline to apply is Nov. 30, with payments starting in December.

A screenshot provided to The Daily Times shows that the online portal for the hardship assistance program was busy due to high demand this week.

Thousands submit applications online

Nov. 2 was the first day applications were available online and, as of Nov. 4, the portal has processed more than 52,000 applications for approximately 79,000 applicants.

"Navajo people of all ages are applying for the hardship assistance program and the use of technology is apparent," the release states.

Questions about the program and application process are being handled by a support center, which can be reached at 833-282-7248.

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The center is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Questions can also be emailed to NNCaresHelp@nnooc.org. When reaching out by email, include your name, nature of the problem and a contact number.

The portal to apply can be accessed on the tribal government's official website, www.navajo-nsn.gov, and the controller's office website, www.nnooc.org.

Paper applications are available for tribal members who cannot file online at various locations, including participating chapter houses and tribal offices that assist the elderly and persons with special needs, according to the release.

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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