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‘Login not valid’: Controller reports Hardship portal is working, with ‘hiccups’

WINDOW ROCK

Frustrations ran high on Monday morning among the thousands of applicants who were trying to log in to the controller’s office’s Hardship Assistance application portal.

Multiple reports that the highly anticipated online portal had “crashed” flooded social media within an hour of the official opening at 8 a.m.

By 8:30 a.m., chapters received confirmation that the Hardship portal was “temporarily down” due to being “overloaded.”

“There were some issues that happened overnight with the system,” explained OOC Public Information Officer Joshua Lavar Butler at 9:30 a.m. “It went down. There was a glitch in it. I think that there were just so many people that applied for it that there was an overload.”

By end of day Monday, a press release from the controller’s office reported that within 30 minutes of going live again at 11 a.m., more than 6,000 applications were successfully processed and over 50,000 users per second were attempting to access the portal.

By 3:30 p.m., more than 16,000 applications had been processed.

“This type of program has never been done before,” said Controller Pearline Kirk. “So, of course, there will be hiccups along the way, but we are addressing them as soon as possible.”

‘Frustrating and upsetting’

The most common complaint reported by tribal members trying to apply was that the system would not accept their Certificate of Indian Blood number and date of birth, required to enter the application portal, returning a message that their login was invalid.

“The site says you’re an ‘Invalid Navajo!’ LOL,” joked one Facebook respondent.

“When I enter my CIB and DOB, it says “This is not a valid login,” an applicant reported to the Navajo Times. “A bunch of my family members are getting this same message. Sister, daughter, cousins, aunts, etc….”

Kirk said her office was aware of the login issue that relates to “validating the integration between the portal and the Vital Records database” to ensure an accurate match.

“Of highest importance is ensuring the security of this sensitive information which is why there are so many additional precautions in place,” said Kirk.

The controller’s office also acknowledged that “due to high volume,” users may have experienced performance issues such as longer wait times or the system timing out.

‘Was there any program management and testing done on the site?” an applicant asked this reporter. “Didn’t they have the server load upgraded so that all these requests could come in? And what about having a workable hotline/helpdesk? None of this appeared to be planned nor expected.’

Several applicants who were having trouble reported that the helpdesk phone number (below) was “out of service” on Monday and there were no responses coming back from inquiries to the nncareshelp@nnnooc.org email.

“The website has been crashing multiple times and the servers are definitely overloaded,” said another applicant. “I have been unable to complete applications because of these issues. Emailed customer service but have yet to receive a response. Hoping to hear from them soon.”

Several applicants who did get past the login screen and thought they might have been successful in submitting their application reported that they had not received any confirmation of that.

“Not sure if my application is complete online,” said a concerned applicant. “I got an error message when I submitted. Who can help confirm if it was successfully completed and submitted?”

As of Tuesday morning, applicants were still reporting issues with the portal, and only one individual informed Navajo Times that their application had been verified as successfully completed.

An applicant who reported “error messages” when she tried to log in early Tuesday morning to apply for her family said it was really “frustrating and upsetting” that the Navajo Tribe was unable to make the application process easier for the Navajo people.

“My mom is over 65 years old and was told to apply online instead of visiting the local chapter house,” she said. “She feels helpless and worried that she may not receive assistance.”

As of Tuesday, the helpdesk hotline number was functioning, but this reporter could not get through and gave up after 40 minutes on hold.

The controller’s office confirmed that paper Hardship applications will continue to be available to elders 65 and older, individuals with special needs or disabilities and other members who are unable to file an online application. Additional paper applications have been delivered to all chapters and Navajo Nation divisions.

However, despite the initial challenges, the controller’s office does recommend that everyone who has access to the internet complete the application online as opposed to filling out a paper application as the information will go directly into the web-portal system.

Kirk reminds applicants that the Hardship Assistance is not first-come first-served and every application will be provided equal consideration regardless of when it is submitted up to the deadline. The application period runs from Nov. 2 to Nov. 30.

Depending on how much money is available in the Hardship Assistance Fund by Nov. 30, the controller’s office will begin mailing checks (up to $1,500 for adults and $500 for minors) in December to eligible tribal members who filed applications.

Online application portal: www.nnooc.org or www.navajo-nsn.gov

Helpdesk: 1-833-282-7248 or NNCaresHelp@nnooc.org


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