Navajo Nation's hardship assistance program opens for first-time applicants

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — Enrolled members of the Navajo Nation who did not apply last year for the tribe's hardship assistance program have until Sept. 30 to sign up.

The Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program was reauthorized by tribal leaders to provide financial relief to those facing challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The application is available on the Navajo Nation Office of the Controller website, www.nnooc.org, along with instructions and how to submit completed forms.

The controller's office, which is managing the program, has set up a telephone number for the program at 1-888-291-9748, where callers can leave their full name and phone number.

Those who applied last year and received payments from the program are not eligible to apply, according to a press release from the Office of the President and Vice President.

Pandemic recovery:Nez signs bill to house American Rescue Plan funds, create office to oversee allocation

The Navajo Nation Office of the Controller in Window Rock, Arizona has opened the application period to first-time applicants for the tribe's CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program.

Acting Controller Elizabeth Begay told delegates on the Budget and Finance Committee on Aug. 3 that the program has approximately $42 million available.

"It's not on a first come, first serve basis. The money will be prorated based on the number of applicants and we don't anticipate extending the application period," Begay said.

She added that her office is still waiting for one subrecipient to return money they received from the tribe's portion of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Entities that received CARES Act funding from the tribe and did not use the amount on projects before Dec. 30, 2020 were mandated to return the money, which is then transferred to the hardship assistance program.

The controller's office is working with the tribe's Department of Justice to contact the subrecipient, Begay said.

Last month, the office hired temporary workers to help with the application period. Workers have been assigned to each of the five agencies, including some who are working in select chapter houses.

More:2021 Navajo Nation Fair canceled for second time over COVID-19 uncertainty

Details about the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program are shared in this graphic from the tribal government.

Begay said it has been difficult placing temporary workers at each of the 110 chapters because most buildings have yet to reopen to the public.

She explained that in the Northern Agency, there are employees assigned to the chapters of Naschitti, Shiprock, Teec Nos Pos and Upper Fruitland.

Meanwhile, the office is also accepting applications at a setup in the Department of Diné Education in Window Rock, Arizona.

Employees there said they can help individuals with the application process and individuals should bring with them the Certificate of Indian Blood for each person listed on the application.

Navajo Nation:Application period to start for hardship assistance fund

They added that applicants should write their name as listed on the CIB. If the applicant chooses to have payment mailed, to make sure they are the registered mailbox holder.

The controller's office is still addressing issues stemming from the first round of the program, according to Controller Begay.

She said the 208 applicants who had payments pending were issued checks as of July 30.

However, the office is waiting to receive 279 checks from Baker Tilly, the consulting firm that administered the program last year.

These checks were returned to Baker Tilly by the U.S. Postal Service because of delivery issues and after the controller's office receives these payments, new ones will be issued, Begay explained.

She added that employees are continuing to reach out to 1,378 applicants who applied before the Nov. 30, 2020 to clear errors on their applications.

There is another group that consists of 8,869 individuals who applied after the Nov. 30, 2020 deadline and her office continues work on those applications.

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.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription to The Daily Times.