Community , Government

Osage Congress approves $50K supplemental appropriation for crisis assistance

The Osage Nation’s Financial Assistance Department received a $50,000 supplemental appropriation during the 4th ON Congressional Special Session to continue offering crisis assistance to Osage families in need after a spike in applications occurred following severe weather that struck the region in May.

Several parts of Oklahoma, including the Osage Nation and Tulsa area, received significant flooding following torrential rain that impacted area communities including Pawhuska, Hominy, Fairfax, Skiatook and Avant. Overflowing creeks, rivers and flooded roads, businesses and homes ensued due to the storms that struck May 20-21, prompting national TV news outlets to visit the areas, as well as state and federal emergency agencies.

Congresswoman Alice Goodfox sponsored ONCA 19-45 seeking the $50,000 supplemental appropriation after speaking with the Executive Branch regarding the status of the crisis assistance availability due to the storms. The Financial Assistance Department said it had approximately 34 applications in process at the time with 22 of those weather-related.

According to the ON website, the Financial Assistance Department offers up to $1,000 in crisis assistance per fiscal year (Oct.-Sept.) to enrolled Osages to help alleviate crisis situations beyond financial control, including natural disasters.

Jennifer Oberly, director of Financial Assistance, visited with the Congressional Appropriations Committee during the special session and said “due to this event,” crisis assistance will be down to $8,000 for the remainder of the 2019 fiscal year if all pending applications are approved.

Committee member and Congressman Scott BigHorse asked if the $50,000 would be enough to finish the year. Oberly said crisis assistance is typically budgeted for $120,000 each year and noted it’s difficult to predict how future weather will impact people.

Oberly said the crisis assistance service has been used for past situations including hotel lodging for displaced people due to homes infested with bed bugs, or with sewage backups, for example. Other possible situations include helping victims of domestic violence, utility assistance due to the death of a household income provider and illness/ injury resulting in incapacitation.

The Congress unanimously passed ONCA 19-45 on June 21 with an 11-0 vote and one absence by Congresswoman Shannon Edwards. Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear signed the bill to take effect on June 26.

For more information, the ON Financial Assistance office can be reached at (918) 287-5325 and its website is at https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/what-we-do/financial-assistance