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Prez’s office says Hardship checks delayed

WINDOW ROCK

Just when people are expecting COVID-19 Hardship Assistance payments, the processing of CARES checks for elders and ARPA checks for everyone are delayed – due to the coronavirus.

The president’s office announced on Sunday, “The high number of requests for changes of address, in addition to setbacks in the availability of personnel due to the spike in COVID-19 cases, has delayed the processing of Hardship Assistance relief.”

This means the previously announced “checks in the mail” have not been sent out yet.

President Jonathan Nez said the surge in COVID-19 cases has impacted employees across all branches of government.

However, neither the Navajo Department of Health nor the Health Command Operations Center has stated which offices have been closed due to COVID-19 or how that may impact services.

“We have employees who are required to quarantine, isolate and work from home due to infections and exposures,” said Nez. “We understand that our elders need relief now and our employees are working hard, but we have to take safety precautions as well.”

Two weeks ago, the president’s office announced that the controller’s office “began the process of distributing CARES Act Hardship Assistance checks” to the 48,000 eligible elders.

“Each recipient should anticipate receiving a check in the mail by next week in the amount of approximately $342,” the office said on Jan. 10.

However, that did not happen and checks may start going out this week instead.

“Elderly recipients can expect them in the mail this week,” the president’s office said.

The president’s office did not confirm whether that meant all the 48,000 checks or just some will go out this week.

Once the checks for elders are processed and mailed, the president’s office said work will focus on the ARPA Hardship Assistance checks of $2,000 for adults and $600 for minors some time “in February.”

On Jan. 10, Acting Controller Elizabeth Begay had indicated during a town hall that ARPA Hardship checks would start going out the “first week” in February.

Begay, who never responds to press inquiries from the Navajo Times, stated in the president’s press release Sunday that controller’s office personnel are “working long hours” to process the change of address requests as quickly as possible.

“The process of issuing checks is a challenging task that requires a great amount of time to ensure accountability and compliance with federal guidelines and due to the high volume of recipients,” said Begay.

Meanwhile, Vice President Myron Lizer encouraged people to “buy Navajo, buy local” to support Navajo businesses and entrepreneurs. Presumably when their checks arrive, that is.

“Checks are being issued and mailed,” assured Lizer. “We strongly encourage our people to use the funds for essential items, supplies, bills, and other expenses to provide the much-needed relief.”

To access Hardship frequently asked questions: https://www.opvp.navajo-nsn.gov/News-Media/Latest-News

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About The Author

Rima Krisst

Reporter and photojournalist Rima Krisst has been with the Navajo Times since July of 2018, and covers our Arts and Culture and Government Affairs beats. Prior to joining the editorial team at the Times, Krisst worked in various capacities in the areas of communications, public relations, marketing and Indian Affairs policy on behalf of the Tribes, Nations and Pueblos of New Mexico. Among her posts, she served as Director of PR and Communications for the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department under Governor Bill Richardson, Healthcare Outreach and Education Manager for the Eight Northern Pueblos, Tribal Tourism Liaison for the City of Santa Fe, and Marketing Projects Coordinator for Santa Fe Indian Market. As a writer and photographer, she has also worked independently as a contractor on many special projects, and her work has been published in magazines. Krisst earned her B.S. in Business Administration/Finance from the University of Connecticut.

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