CN notified of support for family aid program

BY CHAD HUNTER
Reporter
07/29/2019 12:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation will receive nearly $6 million to develop a financial-assistance program aimed at helping needy families become self-sufficient, a Career Services official said.

Earlier this year, the CN submitted its Tribal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families plan, also known as a TANF, to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which provides states and tribes with funding to financially assist needy families that qualify.

Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley said an official letter telling the tribe that it was getting “$5.99 million in TANF” was received.

“We’re rolling it out in October,” she told Tribal Councilors on July 15 during a committee meeting. “We did all of the due diligence required of the federal government as well as the state. We’re really looking forward to it.”

The state government has been administering TANF assistance to eligible Oklahoma citizens, including tribal citizens. Under the CN program, Career Services will be in charge.

“The emphasis of TANF has shifted to assisting needy families obtain gainful employment, leading to self-sufficiency,” legislation approving the program states. “Career Services has both the expertise and experience to develop and operate a high quality, successful TANF program.”
The Career Services office worked with the federal government and Muscogee (Creek) Nation, which administers a TANF plan for its citizens.

Cherokee Elder Care enrollment at all-time high

The Cherokee Elder Care program has 180 participants, an all-time high, it was reported during the July 15 Health Committee meeting.

“We are a full-blown clinic,” Cherokee Elder Care CFO Thelma Pittman said.

Cherokee Elder Care is considered a community Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE.

“It’s a program that has been within the federal registry for almost 30 years now,” Pittman said. “We are an agency of the CN within the executive branch, but we exist on federal dollars.”

The federal PACE is designed to keep elders living in their homes, connected with their communities and out of nursing home facilities, according to the CN.

“The PACE center combines the services of an adult day health center, primary care office and rehabilitation facility into a single location,” the tribe’s website states. “Services include but are not limited to primary care, rehabilitation, prescription medication, meals/nutritional counseling, respite services, caregiver training, home health and transportation.”

Enrollment in elder care dipped to an all-time low of 139 in May 2018, according to Pittman’s report. Elder care saw a financial drop of $123,858 in March, bringing the six-month loss to $449,158, the report stated.

“Our population is aging and frail,” she wrote. “Hospital and skilled stays are common, but this fiscal year (Cherokee Elder Care) has experienced a larger number of the population in need of acute care.”

CN awarded housing rehab grant

The CN received an Indian Community Development Block Grant award for housing rehabilitation, Gary Cooper, Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation executive director, said.

“It’s right around a million bucks that will be used to provide rehab to elderly families,” he said during the July 15 Community Services Committee meeting. “So we will be able to fully rehab somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 elderly families’ homes.”

It was also reported that the federal housing agency approved expansion of the tribe’s Section 184 program into Crawford, Washington, Benton and Sebastian counties in Arkansas.

“Last week, we got approval from (the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development),” Cooper said. “Those four counties are now eligible for the Section 184 loan program.”

Commerce Director Anna Knight said the tribe was denied when it previously asked to expand into the entire state. “So we took a different approach and went after specific counties where most of the Cherokees were,” she said.

According to HUD, the Section 184 program was designed to provide access to mortgage financing to Native American and Alaskan Native tribal citizens. The loans are guaranteed 100 percent by the Office of Loan Guarantee within HUD’s Office of Native American Programs.
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