Government , Health

Osage Nation to give out over $10M in direct assistance

Photo caption: Osage tribal members fill out applications for COVID Direct Assistance in the Welcome Center at the ON Financial Assistance office in Pawhuska on July 13, 2020. CODY HAMMER/Osage News

The Osage Nation has published the application and policy for its CARES Direct Assistance Program for those tribal members affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In June, the Nation received its last payment from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. In total, the Nation received a little over $44.9 million. The 16-person COVID-19 Task Force made up of ON employees issued a narrative on how the money will be spent and a final implementation plan that was updated on July 7.

“For Osage Nation members who can document a necessary COVID caused need, we will provide direct assistance of $1,000 for senior citizens (age 65+) and $500 each for adults and children,” according to the implementation plan. “This is on a first-come, first-serve basis. This program will be implemented with the help of laid-off employees who were brought back to process these applications. This funding also includes a $30,000 reimbursement of Crisis Program direct COVID response previously paid for with tribal dollars during the allowed timeframe before award of CARES Act funds.”     

Of the many initiatives the task force is currently working on, the direct assistance program for tribal members has received the most funding of $10,083,993. The policy for the program and application was published on the Nation’s website on Friday, July 10. Over the weekend as more tribal members became aware of the application, tribal members began to complain about the application process, specifically noting the notarization requirement.

“This whole deal is adding up to be “TOTALLY PUNK" if I ever saw one. Once again another SICK AND TWISTED stunt being pulled by the StandingBear administration at a time when people are seriously ill and dying of this Covid-19 during this Pandemic,” wrote Tina Allen in the Facebook group Committee for a Responsible Osage Nation Budget. “In some "real world" governments, individuals have actually been put to death for much less for what is tantamount to stealing from the people those governments govern and believe me, in more of them than most of us know anything about, it happens with stunning swiftness and regularity.”

Osage Congressman Eli Potts posted his cell phone number on multiple Osage Facebook pages and said tribal members could call him if they needed help with the application and that he was already helping two constituents with accessing the application and arranging for a Notary Public.

“Thankful for any assistance, but why this isn’t guaranteed, convenient, and expedient is beyond me,” he wrote on July 11.

Andrea Kemble, Project Specialist for the Nation’s Financial Assistance office is spearheading the direct assistance program. She said the application requires the notarization to prevent fraud and abuse. And, since the notarization is required it “actually simplifies the application” because tribal members don’t have to provide additional documentation such as copies of a photo ID or their tribal membership cards because the Nation can handle that internally, she said.

For those applicants who plan to apply in person at the Financial Assistance office on the Nation’s campus can get their applications notarized for free.

“We’ve taken over 200 applications today. Our response time to the applicant is fairly quick and we have been responding quickly to anyone who had incomplete applications and following up,” she said. “We have 10 business days to notify applicants of approval or denial, that is our timeframe, but it won’t take us that long. The timeframe for our Accounting Department to deliver the direct assistance is within 30 days. But again, we do not expect it to take that long.”

Kemble said at the end of the first day they processed 300 applications.

Assisting the task force is the ON Attorney General’s office; David Mullon, former U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chief Counsel. Terry Mason Moore, General Counsel to the Office of the Chiefs, attorney Dean Luthey, and Lacey Horn, who is a member of the U.S. Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee and is the former Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation.

On June 24, the U.S. Treasury updated their FAQ sheet on whether the funding could be used as a per capita payment, and it cannot. The penalties for misusing the funds could result in an audit, recoupment of funds, fines and tribal members could be taxed for the payments. For all these reasons and more is why the task force required the notarization for the application, Kemble said.

Eligibility

The CARES Direct Assistance Program is being administered through the Financial Assistance office, located in the Welcome Center on the Nation’s campus at 239 W. 12th Street in Pawhuska.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • Must be an enrolled Osage Nation tribal member by July 1, 2020
  • Certify their essential needs and/ or experienced hardship
  • Submit a completed application, with a notarized signature.

The direct assistance is to assist those Osages who are experiencing unforeseen increases expenses to meet their individual essential needs and necessary expenditures.

According to the policy, the Nation defines essential needs as: personal protective equipment, affordable and adequate food, and unmet health /medical needs.

According to the policy, the Nation defines necessary expenditures as: expenses to prevent eviction or foreclosure, expenses to operate household utilities, expenses to telework, expenses to complete educational distant learning programs, and childcare expenses for essential workers during the pandemic.

Visit the Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.

You can reach CARES Direct Assistance Program staff via:

  • Email: direct-assist@osagenation-nsn.gov
  • Phone: (918) 287-9745
  • Fax: (918) 287-5593
  • Mailing address: 627 Grandview Avenue, Pawhuska, OK 74056
  • Physical address: 239 W 12th Street, Pawhuska, OK 74056