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Almost 30,000 Navajo CARES Hardship Assistance applicants could be excluded due to missing records

Virus Outbreak Navajo Nation AP
Posted at 12:32 PM, Dec 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-24 14:37:49-05

The Navajo Nation Office of the Controller said Thursday that nearly 30,000 who applied for the Navajo CARES Hardship Assistance Program could potentially not get help due to missing records.

The Controller's Office said it collected applications for 295,000 members when the application period ended on Nov. 30.

Almost 73,000 of the applications received had problems where many did not have matching Certificate of Indian Blood (CIB) records in the vital records database, officials said. This information is handled by the Navajo Office of Vital Records and Identification.

Controller of the Navajo Nation, Pearline Kirk, said thousands of additional applications also had errors with matching names, dates of birth, or addresses.

“As a result, nearly 25% of applicants were not initially eligible for payment due to the lack of a valid record in the database,” Kirk said.

The Controller's Office made an attempt to validate the nearly 73,000 applicants who had errors in their applications and was able to resolve 43,000 as of Dec. 21, officials said.

“In many instances, this time to attempt validation was less based on the date in which an application was submitted,” said Kirk. “The Controller’s Office has made numerous failed attempts to reach certain applicants based on the contact information provided on their application. We have used various means to get the word out including social media, print media, radio and press releases.”

Kirk added that the current deadline to validate eligibility is December 30 but with the impeding stimulus bill, there could be a chance that the deadline is extended.

"Regardless, this process must be completed prior to distribution in order to provide enough time for the records to be gathered for final review by our office,” said Kirk

The Office of the Controller received help from the Office of Vital Records processing applications since they manage data for all enrolled members. Officials said the program experienced problems with verification of the information with the vital records database.

“The vital records database was incomplete, at best, but we did the best we could to work with it,” said Kirk. “When complete, the Controller’s Office will have added nearly 80,000 new records to the database and cleaned up or corrected over 100,000 other records. Our efforts will leave the Navajo Nation with a census record that is more complete than ever before, thus affording the Navajo Nation multiple benefits beyond the Hardship Assistance Program.”

The hardship funds were made possible by the CARES Act and were provided by the U.S. Treasury. Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements and complete an application process to avoid having to pay the funds back to the federal government, officials said.