Diné enrolled population increases to 399,494
The CARES Act Hardship Assistance Program helped to increase the total enrolled population of the Navajo Nation from 306,268 to 399,494, possibly making the Navajo Nation the largest federally recognized tribe in the U.S., according to the controller’s office.
Pearline Kirk, controller of the Navajo Nation, explained the increase is due to the Hardship Assistance Program, which paid more than $322 million to more than 293,000 Navajo applicants from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The program contained mandatory enrollment for eligibility, prompting many people to update enrollment records.
Enrollment information maintained electronically by the Office of Vital Records and Identification was incomplete, Kirk said.
“During the course of the Hardship Assistance Program, we received a large number of applicants that submitted valid enrollment documents, such as a copy of their Certificate of Indian Blood which we were unable to locate within the electronic database,” she said.
The controller’s office collected thousands of documents, which in turn served as information used to verify enrollment of applicants that were not previously contained in the outdated database.
The office continues to receive valid CIB documents from both applicants and individuals that missed the initial deadline for the Hardship Assistance Program, and these documents are being registered in the current database.
“Today, the Navajo Nation’s vital records database has never been more accurate,” said Kirk. “The efforts of the Office of the Controller resulted in the construction of a database that can now verify enrollment with accuracy and more reliability.”
The Hardship Assistance Program also allowed for a direct validation of more than 300,000 records, as well as the collection and digitization of records that were previously contained in decentralized repositories at satellite agency enrollment offices across the Navajo Nation.
This could make a big difference in allocations from the American Rescue Plan Act because its formula is presumed to include a significant portion of the distribution based on self-certified enrollment. Also several other federal programs are funded using certified enrollment.
“Thank you to our Navajo people for helping to make this population increase possible,” said Kirk. “Thank you also to my staff at the Office of the Controller and our consultants for helping to make this happen.
“Our staff worked long hours,” she said. “They often spent time away from home and their families to ensure programs continue to benefit the Navajo people.”