Navajo Nation Council backs proposal for second round of hardship assistance program

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Council passed the bill to implement the second round of the tribe's program to financially help enrolled members with expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Delegates voted 23 in favor and zero opposed on June 25 to enact the second phase of the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program, which is funded by the tribe's allocation from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has 10 calendar days after the resolution is submitted to his office to sign, veto or use his line-item authority on the measure.

Navajo Nation Council amended bill to prioritize some payments

While the bill's intention is to help those who did not apply for the first round of payments, the council amended the bill during the special session to prioritize payments to 1,865 applicants.

These individuals had submitted their applications before the Nov. 30, 2020 deadline. Some encountered problems such as submitting proof of a Certificate of Indian Blood because the tribe's Office of Vital Records and Identification was closed due to the pandemic. Some had their checks returned to the Office of the Controller because of issues with the U.S. Postal Service.

Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton, who requested the amendment, said these applicants should not be punished for actions that were beyond their control.

"This amendment that I'm proposing, it applies only to 1,865 individuals who have not received their hardship checks. Their names are in the system. They have been approved but, again, because maybe they weren't able to submit their CIB or they weren't able to verify their address, they did not receive a check," Charles-Newton said.

The group would receive the same amount paid in the first round, which was up to $1,350 for adults and up to $450 for minors.

She added that there are approximately 9,000 names on a waiting list at the controller's office, which is due to applications not delivered on time or mistakes on the application.

Elizabeth Begay

Acting Controller Elizabeth Begay further elaborated that the pool of 1,865 applicants is comprised of:

• 1,378 applications that were submitted by the November 2020 deadline;

• 208 applicants who have payments pending; 

• 279 applicants who had checks returned by the Postal Service, and the controller's office is working on reissuing those payments.

Begay said the hardship assistance program has approximately $41.97 million available for round two but $2.45 million will be needed to pay the 1,865 applicants at the same amount provided to adults and minors under the first round.

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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