Council's program helps with emergency housing repairs

By Travis Snell
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - In the latter part of fiscal year 2003, the Tribal Council appropriated money from the tribe's Motor Fuels Tax Fund to help tribal citizens in need of emergency home repair who may fall through the bureaucratic cracks of the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation.

Doug Evans, council certified public accountant, said councilors appropriated $150,000 in April to establish the Disaster Housing Relief Program. The council program helps tribal citizens repair their homes damaged by emergencies once they have expended all efforts through the HACN.

"The way I understand how they (councilors) wrote those procedures is that it (a repair request) has to not fit within the emergency program within the Housing Authority," Evans said. "In other words, these requests will be falling through the crack. It comes over here, and council approves it in the (Emergency Housing) sub-committee per incident. It's a tribal subsidy to a federal grant."

"The HACN emergency policy is limited to $2,500, and occasionally there is a need for funding in excess of $2,500," said David Southerland, HACN executive director. "The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council emergency program allows for additional funding to assist tribal citizens."

For example, Evans said, if a tribal citizen's home suffers $5,000 worth of flood damage, then the tribal citizen would apply to the HACN for minor emergency repairs. If the HACN spends its per-home maximum of $2,500 in minor emergency repairs, then the HACN could send a repair request to the Emergency Housing Sub-Committee hoping it would pick up the tab for the other $2,500 worth of damage.

"They (HACN) will do it with the block grant monies first, and if there is something else that still needs to be done or it's a little more than that, they will use this fund to pick up the difference," Evans said. "The money is already appropriated, but they set the policy up where it's not a carte blanche, where every incident has to come before the council for approval, before that committee."

Evans said most of the Disaster Housing Relief funds have rolled into FY 2004 and that council won't appropriate any more money into the program until funds are expended and if it has high enough priority over other needs. Even though the funds rolled over into the new fiscal year, most of the funds are already obligated to tribal citizens but not yet expended, he said.

According to the HACN's Web site, emergency repair work is offered to privately owned homes to low-income Cherokee Nation citizens when property conditions create a hazard to the life, health or safety of the occupants, or if there is risk of property damage if the condition is not corrected and has occurred in the last 72 hours. This also includes winterization activities.

The HACN's eligibility guidelines state that the applicant must be the legal owner of the home or a direct descendent of the homeowner. The applicant, spouse or a household family member must have a tribal membership card (blue card) and must live within the tribe's jurisdictional boundaries. Assistance will also be provided to original Dawes Commission enrollees who live in Oklahoma. The family's combined gross income must also be below the 50 percent mark of the national median income guidelines.

For more information, contact the HACN at 1-800-837-2869.

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