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Hardship payments postponed: Some applicants to receive follow-up calls

WINDOW ROCK

While over 290,000 tribal members applied for Hardship Assistance Program by Nov. 30, Navajo Nation Controller Pearline Kirk said that at least 120,000 applications “have some sort of error.”

There are approximately 30,000 applicants not found in the Navajo Nation Vital Records database, which suffered a data loss in 2014.

Due to the extra time that will be needed to resolve the issues, the hardship payments will be going out in January 2021, not December, as was previously announced.

“It will take a significant amount of time to complete the initial processing of each application,” Kirk said in a Dec. 5 press release. “The errors could range from a mismatch between names, date of birth, CIB or hardship declarations. These exceptions must be cleared before payment can be made.”

Kirk said follow-ups will be conducted in the next several weeks and may require staff from the controller’s call center to call or email applicants to confirm, verify or correct information on an individual’s application, including CIB information.

“We are focusing our initial efforts on processing those who are not in the Vital Records database and it requires applicants to verify their enrollment by submitting an eligible document, such as a copy of their CIB,” said Kirk.

She said the call center staff will always identify themselves and they will never ask for an applicant’s full Social Security number. The call will come from the phone number 833-282-7248.

“If the call center calls you, please answer your phone,” said Kirk. “If you aren’t comfortable, an applicant can call the support center/call center directly.”

The controller’s office will also launch an automated communications outreach system via text messaging and phone calls in upcoming weeks to convey important information directly to applicants.

Kirk said the controller’s office has hundreds of staff resources dedicated to ensuring as many eligible Navajo Nation members as possible receive the hardship funds.

On Dec. 3, Speaker Seth Damon stated in a press release that nearly $300 million of the $714 million in Navajo Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds were unspent. The Council’s position is that “every single penny” of unobligated dollars on Nov. 20 is “now part of the Hardship Assistance Program fund,” he said.

“We’re here to state that Navajo law currently mandates that all funds not encumbered by November 20 will revert to the Hardship Assistance Fund,” said Damon.

“The point of this deadline was to eliminate any room for confusion or uncertainty about how unspent and unobligated funds would be dealt with,” he said. “The Council stands by the November 20th deadline, and we ask the Navajo public to join us in holding President Nez to that final date for obligating monies.”

As the law stands, any remaining obligated CARES (contracts in place) funds that are unspent by Dec. 16 are also set to revert to the Hardship Assistance Fund.

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


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