FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — The Navajo Nation said it is working to release more paper applications for a hardship assistance program after application shortages caused challenges for chapters and tribal citizens.
The Navajo Nation Office of the Controller made applications available Monday to enrolled members of the tribe who are 65 and older or who have disabilities. The Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program applications are open to all other enrolled tribal members on Nov. 2, the Gallup Independent reported. The deadline to apply is Nov. 30.
The maximum financial assistance amount is $1,500 for people 18 years old and older and $500 for minors, officials said. The first checks are expected to be mailed in early December.
However, the department said only 3,000 applications were printed over the weekend, and then distributed to the Navajo Nation's 110 chapters.
The department said the delay was because the application is printed on a certain type of paper that is also used for election ballots, and because they are numbered to prevent fraud.
Controller Pearline Kirk said the printing process is expected to continue and 200,000 more applications will be made available to the chapters. The printed applications are intended for those who cannot fill out the application online. The website link for the online application is scheduled to be available Nov. 2.
"This application process is not first come, first served. No matter when you apply, your application will be given equal treatment. Thank you for your understanding and patience during this time," Kirk said.
The Daily Times reported that five chapters in San Juan County said they each received 20 applications on Monday. Upper Fruitland Chapter Manager Alvis Kee said the challenging part was that they were uncertain what the expectations were and what the process was going to look like.
"This is the first time that the Navajo Nation has had funds for this specific purpose," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said. "With any initiative of this magnitude, there will be minor issues that arise, and we have to continue working together to resolve the issues and move forward. We ask everyone to be respectful of the Office of the Controller as they work hard to help our Navajo people."
Nez has urged residents to continue wearing masks in public, practice social distancing, wash hands frequently and avoid large gatherings to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.