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Deadline nears to submit Navajo Nation COVID-19 financial relief program applications

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The deadline to apply for the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program is Nov. 30. 

The program was developed by tribal officials in October to help enrolled members with financial troubles incurred due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is funded by a portion of the federal coronavirus relief bill the tribe received this year. 

In a press release this week, the Office of the Controller reminded enrolled members that the portal to apply is available on the office's website, www.nnooc.org, and the tribal government's official website, www.navajo-nsn.gov.

Questions about the application process are being handled by a support center, which can be called at 833-282-7248. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

If there is a problem reaching the support center, applicants can email their name, nature of the problem and contact number to NNCaresHelp@nnooc.org.

A worker secures a new billboard about social distancing and self-isolation for COVID-19 along New Mexico Highway 264 on March 29 in Tsé Bonito during the early days of the pandemic. Tribal officials have moved their efforts online. The portal to apply for Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program funds is available on the office's website, www.nnooc.org.

According to the release, applicants need to contact their local chapter house to check availability of paper applications.

"Each chapter house is taking different measures during the current lockdown of the Navajo Nation government," the release states.

Completed paper applications can be mailed to the Navajo Nation Office of the Controller, PO Box 1160, St. Michaels, AZ 86511-9998. Those applications must be postmarked on or before Nov. 30.

The controller's office reported in the release that more than 240,000 enrolled members have applied as of Nov. 23.

The office is aware that problems persist when logging in to the portal, which uses data from the tribe's Office of Vital Records and Identification to verify tribal membership.

"Earlier this month, the magnitude of a data loss with vital records that occurred several years ago was discovered and it was not addressed. This issue created a delay in verifying vital records information when enrolled members tried applying through the online portal," the release states.

The release explains that the Office of Vital Records and Identification is under the Division of Human Resources and it is not an entity of the controller's office.

It explains further that the controller's office could no longer wait for the problem to be fixed and found an alternative method that resulted in adding approximately 40,000 enrollment records to the hardship assistance program's database.

Since the first cases of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation were confirmed in March, the tribal government has been reminding the public through advertisements about staying safe by practicing social distancing and self-isolation. Now they are reminding people that the deadline to apply for hardship funds through the CARES Act is Nov. 30.

Another solution allows applicants to submit a Certificate of Indian Blood by text messaging when requested.

"Given the significant influx of new records, we ask applicants to reattempt the online portal before calling or texting us. We also ask that you do not submit your information more than once because it will delay the processing time for all requests," Controller Pearline Kirk said in the release.

She added that the program's support center might contact applicants when necessary to correct or clarify information.

Kirk said her office is aware of individuals receiving telephone calls from outside entities that request sensitive information.

"Please note, we will never ask you to provide your full Social Security number over the phone. If we are unable to verify your information, there is a risk of delaying the processing of your application – so continued cooperation is appreciated," 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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