Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Fri, March 05

Hardship assistance update: Text messaging campaign launched because of call volume to support center

Homes on the Navajo Nation are getting electricity under a program funded by CARES Act money. With the funding expiring at the end of the year, crews are working 10 hours a day, seven days a week to reach more homes. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Homes on the Navajo Nation are getting electricity under a program funded by CARES Act money. With the funding expiring at the end of the year, crews are working 10 hours a day, seven days a week to reach more homes. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation Office of the Controller has launched a text messaging campaign that will notify applicants of the status of their applications or check processing for the Navajo Cares Act Hardship Assistance Program.

The text messaging effort is in response to the unprecedented amount of phone calls to the Support Center where many phone calls are simply to verify the status of an application or a check, the controller’s office said.

The text messages will notify applicants in the following scenarios:

Mailed/pending print — This means the application has been approved, it has been included in the check batch and is either in the mail or will be mailed in the next one or two days.

Approved — the application was approved prior to the last cutoff for the most recent check batch. These checks will be included in the next batch of checks after the final step of reviewing for duplicate applications occurs. This is expected to occur the week of Feb. 1.

Text messages will come from a variety of phone numbers with area codes beginning with 505 to accommodate the large volume of text message to nearly 140,000 applicants. The text messages started Jan. 27 and 28.

To ensure legitimacy, the information from the text messages is below:

Mailed/print text message: “Hello, this is the Navajo Nation Hardship Assistance Program Support Center. We are confirming your application has been approved and checks for all eligible applicants that you included on your application are on the way. Please allow 2-3 weeks for standard U.S. Postal Service processing before contacting our support center with questions. Thank you for your patience! Please reply STOP to opt out of future messages.”

Approved text message:

“Hello, this is the Navajo Nation Hardship Assistance Program Support Center. We are confirming your application has been approved, pending review for duplicate applicants and checks for all eligible applicants that you included on your application will be printed soon. Please allow 3-4 weeks for processing and standard U.S. Postal Service delivery before contacting our support center with questions. Thank you for your patience! Please reply STOP to opt out of future messages.”

The Office of the Controller said applicants who have received a text message should not call the Support Center to check on the status of their applications or checks. The text message does not guarantee the completeness of the application — such as ensuring the applicant has included all intended family members or relatives on the application.

The Office of the Controller reminds everyone that the application period is closed — no new applicants will be added. If an applicant received a check and believe it is missing a person, please call the Support Center at 1-833-282-7248 at that time.

Recipients of duplicate checks heavily cautioned to not cash them, replacement checks expedited Jan. 26

While processing 200,000 checks for the Navajo Cares Act Hardship Assistance Program, the Navajo Nation Office of the Controller sent out 370 duplicate checks in error — and cautioned recipients of those checks not to cash them.

The duplicate checks and its originals were immediately labeled with a ‘stop payment’ alert and will not be accepted for payment. New replacement checks were mailed out Jan. 26 and all impacted recipients were contacted by the Office of the Controller.

The Controller’s Office has the listing of the 370 impacted individuals that received duplicate checks in error and cautioned recipients to not attempt to cash the checks until they receive their replacement checks. Local pawn shops and merchants were notified of the 370 duplicate checks and were discouraged from cashing them.

Additionally, various fraudulent practices have occurred in the past and the Navajo Nation had cases surface when individuals attempted to present counterfeit checks or the same check for payment multiple times at different merchants, trading posts, check cashing centers, grocery stores and pawn shops.

Pearline Kirk, Navajo Nation Controller, explained when this fraudulent activity occurs, various parties including merchants are ultimately harmed because the checks will not be paid if there is a stop payment or if the check is presented multiple times.

“A common occurrence is when an individual conducts a mobile deposit on their cellphone and then subsequently tries to cash the check elsewhere,” Kirk said. “This is nothing new for the Navajo Nation but given the significant number of checks issued through the Navajo CARES Act Hardship Assistance Program, our office felt it was necessary to continue to remind the merchants and the general public that the Navajo Nation is aware of this practice and individuals who are caught trying to defraud the Navajo Nation will be reported to the appropriate authorities of the Navajo Nation.”

Kirk said individuals engaging in fraudulent activity will jeopardize any future payments by the Navajo Nation. As a reminder, she said when an individual signed the Navajo CARES Act Hardship Assistance Program application authorizations and certifications.

If anyone is aware of any type of fraudulent activity, they are encouraged to report such activity to the Fraud Hotline by emailing fraudline@nnooc.org or by calling 1-844-747-2767.

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