First-time applicants can still apply for Navajo Nation's hardship assistance program

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — The Navajo Nation Office of the Controller is continuing to accept applications from enrolled tribal members who did not apply last year for the tribe's hardship assistance program.

The application period for the Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program opened on Aug. 1 after tribal leaders reauthorized the program this summer to help tribal members impacted financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

The controller's office has 25,740 applicants since opening the application period, acting Controller Elizabeth Begay told tribal council delegates on the Budget and Finance Committee on Sept. 14.

The number of applicants includes those placed on a wait list from last year's program because they did not receive payments, Begay explained.

When the bill that proposed relaunching the program was under consideration by delegates, it was estimated that 92,000 enrolled tribal members did not apply last year.

Elizabeth Begay

Begay said her office anticipates that many applications and hopes those who are eligible apply by the Sept. 30 deadline.

She added that the program's balance is approximately $41.79 million.

"We want to reach out to all Navajos that have not received hardship one to please apply because we have sufficient funds to accommodate the hardship assistance," Begay said.

The application is available on the controller's office website, www.nnooc.org, along with instructions and how to submit completed forms.

While controller's office staff work on the current phase of the program, concern remains about the program's implementation last year.

Begay explained that the bank reconciliation for last year's program revealed 7,953 checks that have not been cashed by recipients.

Among the reasons why these payments have not been processed could be because some were sent to deceased persons, to recipients who have no identification, or some recipients may have lost their checks, she said.

The controller's office is examining ways to contact the 7,953 recipients to resolve the matter, she said. She added that the office has also received reports about checks being stolen and cashed by someone other than the recipient.

"That's an ongoing issue," Begay said. "A lot of recipients of hardship one already contacted our office that their checks were stolen, and we just refer them to our police department to ask for help. So far that's our policy not to issue another check to the recipient whose check got stolen."

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