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Navajo Nation COVID-19 financial relief payments intended for January release

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — The Navajo Nation Office of the Controller anticipates releasing checks from the tribe's hardship assistance program in January.

A press release from the controller's office states that more than 290,000 applications were submitted for the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program.

Applications were due on Nov. 30. The forms required applicants to list their Certificate of Indian Blood enrollment number as well as other personal information.

"Of the thousands of applications, many have issues that need to be resolved before they can be processed," the release states.

In addition to the number of applications that need to be corrected, a final amount for the program needs to be determined, the release states.

While the Navajo Nation Council and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez approved $49.4 million for the program, its balance could increase if money reverts from tribal programs and projects that do not use allocations from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez speaks about the record number of new COVID-19 infections reported by health officials on Nov. 22 during an online town hall hosted by his office.

The release states that personnel from the call center set up by the controller's office will handle the questionable applications and contact applicants by telephone or email to confirm, verify or correct their information.

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Controller Pearline Kirk explained in the release that more than 120,000 applications have errors that need to be resolved, including more than 30,000 applicants whose CIB enrollment numbers are absent from a database managed by the tribe's Office of Vital Records and Identification.

The issue of missing enrollment numbers came to light within the week the hardship assistance program's application period opened in early November.

"The errors could range from a mismatch between names, date of birth, CIB or hardship declarations. These exceptions must be cleared before payment can be made," Kirk said.

She added the focus is on applicants who are not in the database, which would require those individuals to verify enrollment by submitting an eligible document, such as a copy of their CIB.

The release also explains that call center staff will identify themselves when calling from the telephone number 833-282-7248.

"If you do receive a phone call from an unknown number, do not provide any information to them because there has been reports of fraudulent calls," the release states.

More:  Small businesses struggling due to COVID-19 can apply for relief funding

The controller's office will also launch an automated system to reach out to applicants by text messages and telephone calls.

Details about that system will be released before it is used, 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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