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80 percent of Navajo Nation COVID-19 hardship assistance checks issued, mailed

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Instructions are mailed with checks issued under the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program.

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Office of the Controller is reporting that 80% of approved payments have been mailed from the tribe's hardship assistance program.

In a Feb. 18 update, the office states that 293,000 enrolled tribal members have been approved at this time for the tribe's CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program, which was developed to help enrolled members financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Approximately 20,000 checks were printed and mailed this week. Overall, there have been 231,281 checks issued as of the update.

The office started issuing payments to approved applicants on Jan. 18.

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The update also explained that a change has been made to the way the program's support center is handling telephone calls from applicants.

Due to high call volume, the support center is now having applicants leave their telephone number so a representative can return their call.

"All support is being provided on a callback basis at this time," the support center's message states after calling 833-282-7248.

The message continues, then explains that it can take up to seven days for a representative to return an applicant's call before requesting the caller to leave their contact information.

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The controller's office explained that more than 100 representatives have been answering calls each day.

"From Feb. 8 to Feb. 12, they received 144,346 telephone calls from Navajo Nation members checking on the status of their applications or calling into to the help fix application errors," according to the update.

This activity has "maxed the capacity" of the support center and representatives cannot keep up with the demand.

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The controller's office also reminds applicants not to call the office directly or any other tribal government offices about the program or about applications.

"Applicants are also discouraged from showing up in-person at the Office of the Controller in Window Rock, the office cannot risk overcrowding. … These offices are handling normal Navajo Nation business operations and cannot answer questions relative to the hardship assistance program," the release states.

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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